We Love Drone Strikes

Kevin Drum points to a poll showing that 2/3 of Americans, and a majority of liberal Democrats, support drone strikes, even if the targets are Americans.  Like me, he finds these numbers disturbing, though in a later post he hypothesizes that people may mean they like drones in comparison to using and risking live troops, rather than simply supporting willy nilly drone strikes per se.

It is odd that the children of the sixties -- who grew up protesting push button war and American pilots who bombed Cambodians with impunity and were home for dinner -- now seem to be OK with drone attacks, even on Americans.  (I am reminded of the Al Franken skit on SNL where he editorializes that now that he has assets to protect and is older, he has changed his mind and supports the draft).  While I am happy with the idea of technologies that keep American soldiers safer, I am not happy with something that makes it easier for the President to, without accountability and often in secret, use force against, well, whatever target catches his whim.

Consider drones from the receiving end.  For a Pakistani, American drones resemble nothing so much as alien invaders from a Niven/Pournelle novel dropping meteors on cities.  The Americans might as well be Zeus on Mt Olympus hurling thunderbolts at them for all that they can fight back or retaliate.   It's a lot of responsibility to play God -- and there has been no one in either party over the last several decades I would trust to do it.


  1. bob sykes:

    Soon, police departments everywhere (including your favorite sheriff, who shall not be named) will have drones. Initially they will be for surveillance, but every police force has a sniper or two, and eventually the drones will be armed.

    What would happen if some cowboy shot a drone?

  2. Daublin:

    There's a weird glamour around Washington, D.C. Americans at large feel like D.C. is not just filled with reasonably good people. Rather, that D.C. is the fount of everything good that Americans can do as a group.

    If you ask them about a local sheriff sending out a drone attack, I imagine they would be horrified. However, if it's a U.S. president pushing the button, well golly, it must be a reasonably good guy.

  3. Benjamin Cole:

    I like this post, though I am not sure that somehow those mythical 60s hippies (the standard by which we measure everything, even now?) support drone strikes. Really, it has been 40 years since the 60s. I vote to give it a rest. Anyway, my day was disco.

    I wonder also about drones, and especially executing American citizens without a trial. Really? Just because some over-eager security nut-types say you are a terrorist, you can be murdered? Boy, that line could get mushy fast. And suppose I frame someone as a terrorist? They do not have a chance to mount a defense?

  4. Roark:

    Anyone paying attention can see it's all coming together. The NDAA passes, allowing US citizens to be arrested on US soil without warrant and to be detained indefinitely without trial. The DHS establishes a laundry list of possible 'terrorist' activities and asks Americans to report their neighbors. The FBI monitors blogs and social media. The President claims authority to assassinate American citizens without trial. Congress authorizes deploying up to 30,000 drones in the US. The Pentagon is working out the logistics with the FAA. They are not even trying to hide it, but most brain dead Americans are too busy playing with their toys, made by the Chink slave labor that the Coyote loves so much.

  5. IGotBupkis, Three Time Winner of the Silver Sow Award:

    >>> It’s a lot of responsibility to play God

    I can think of some, but only two on the Dem side of the argument -- Joe Lieberman and Zell Miller -- both of whom showed that they were far more on the side of rationality than party unity.

    I'm put in mind of a Monty Python bit about politicians:

    "We would like to apologize for the way in which politicians are
    represented in this programme. It was never our intention to imply that
    politicians are weak-kneed, political time-servers who are more
    concerned with their personal vendettas and private power struggles than
    the problems of government, nor to suggest at any point that they
    sacrifice their credibility by denying free debate on vital matters in
    the mistaken impression that party unity comes before the well-being of
    the people they supposedly represent, nor to imply at any stage that
    they are squabbling little toadies without an ounce of concern for the
    vital social problems of today. Nor indeed do we intend that viewers
    should consider them as crabby ulcerous little self-seeking vermin with
    furry legs and an excessive addiction to alcohol and certain explicit
    sexual practices which some people might find offensive.

    We are sorry if this impression has come across."


  6. IGotBupkis, Three Time Winner of the Silver Sow Award:

    >>> made by the Chink slave labor that the Coyote loves so much.

    I think the use of the word "chink" here more than adequately summarizes the mindset of the kind of asswipe who wrote this last part, even if the earlier portions are valid.

  7. Ted Rado:

    I can't help but wonder what we would say if Paskistani drones destroyed American towns in pursuit of anti-Pakistan terrorists. As the tough guy on the block, we need to consider the example we are setting.

    Bottom line: is the PR damage we are doing to ourselves more than offsetting the benefits of te drone strikes?

  8. John Moore:

    This is exaggeration. Do you really think the president could order a drone strike on an American in the US?

    Beyond that, it is long established precedent that members of enemy forces, including Americans, are fair targets.

    I think you have a problem with the nature of the war being waged against us. Inconvenient for those who like everything nicely categorized, they use civilians to attack us. In such a war, unpleasant tactics are required.

    For that matter, in every war, unpleasant tactics are required.

  9. Roy:

    "It is odd that the children of the sixties — who grew up protesting push button war and American pilots who bombed Cambodians with impunity and were home for dinner — now seem to be OK with drone attacks, even on Americans."

    Oh yes, here we go again with the "children of the sixties" bullshit.

    First, I would like to point out that the "children of the sixties" are not 2/3 of Americans - not even close.

    Second, I would also like to point out that the majority of the "children of the sixties" didn't protest anything. They went to school, joined the military, fought - and some died - in Vietnam. They got jobs, raised families, and stayed as far away from that high profile hippie culture as they could.

  10. Gil:

    Actually it's been 50 years since the '60s hence many of the hippies have probably since died.

  11. Russ R.:

    A better question for Americans would be:

    "How would you feel about the use of drone strikes (potentially against American targets) if they were initiated by the (Chinese, Russians, Iranians, etc.)?"

    It's easy to approve of dropping bombs on someone else... would Americans be as approving of bombs being dropped on them?

  12. Matt:

    The overwhelming majority of Americans grew up in a world where the President of the United States could (effectively) push a button and make a _city_ disappear, if ever he got it into his head to do so...and unless that city happened to be in Russia, there wasn't much chance that America would experience military retaliation.

    For that matter, there was not, strictly speaking, any guarantee that any given Republican wouldn't decide to nuke San Francisco, or any given Democrat nuke Houston...but it just kept on not happening, so we learned to ignore the possibility that some future dude might just be crazy enough to do it.

    Given that, it's unsurprising that most are unable to get worked up over the ability to target our "death from above" capability more precisely, and with less risk to our own military.

  13. Roark:

    @ John Moore
    How do you feel about the provision of the NDAA allowing Americans who fit a 'terrorist' profile, perhaps based upon tweets or blog comments, to be arrested without warrant and detained indefinitely without trial?

  14. Gil:

    If that American was indeed had the full profile incluing to acquire materials to attack various sites then: yes absolutely - he's an enemy combatant.

  15. Mark:

    I'm not certain people would be as approving if a president with an (R) after his name would have as high an approval rating for executing (so to speak) drone warfare on unsuspecting citizens. Hopefully, there's a process in the military and CIA (with all the fuss about collateral damage) that the targets are no kidding bad guys.

    Regarding the analogy to nukes and the restraint in using them. Every sentient leader since WWII seemed to have an understanding of the difference between nukes killing millions upon millions of citizens on both sides of a nuclear exchange, to killing the equivalent of Don Corleone and minions, Stalin and his cronies, Goebbels and his staff, which is how we seem to see using drones. There's a huge difference.

    Notice, however, just the other day, an edict to the FAA to enable drones to fly in the US. Cities already use Google earth to find zoning violations (un-permitted pools and gazebos for example). Imagine what they can do with drones flying over your neighborhood or along the by-ways. There could be goodness with law enforcement's use of drones. "Monitoring" traffic and helping catch bad guys, etc., for example.

    However, there is great potential for abuse: lawyers hiring them to spy on possibly cheating wives, cops citing you for rolling through a 4-way stop sign at 2 AM when it's obvious noone else is around, cops citing you for making it to work too fast, or cutting off the idiot driving 2 MPH below the speed limit in the left lane.

    Drones are coming to your town...be ready.

  16. Tim Fowler:

    The issue isn't drone strikes, its attacks. If the attack is justified its not any worse because its done with drone. If it isn't justified its not any better because drones are used.