Drone proliferation

During the early part of the Iraq war, someone had the idea of installing a Hellfire missile on a surveillance drone.  Thus inventing one of the most formidable weapons ever, which can kill an enemy with no risk to the person wielding the weapon.  Now other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, want them and are trying to buy them from U.S. companies.  Read this:  David Ignatius – Dazzling new weapons require new rules for war.

Can or should anything be done?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    something about this all seems really evil to me. But I can´t put my finger on it in a way that I can articulate….

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    something about this all seems really evil to me. But I can´t put my finger on it in a way that I can articulate….

  • Bryan Lindemood

    We should destroy all our drones and all the records on how to make them from all the face of the earth and repent of the evil we have have not wielded. That’s the thing about these pieces of s___, no one really wields them. It is not war (these drones from hell) – it is manipulation of the worst kind.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    We should destroy all our drones and all the records on how to make them from all the face of the earth and repent of the evil we have have not wielded. That’s the thing about these pieces of s___, no one really wields them. It is not war (these drones from hell) – it is manipulation of the worst kind.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I mean, there’s just war – and their ain’t just war. And these hornets from hell aren’t even in on the conversation.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I mean, there’s just war – and their ain’t just war. And these hornets from hell aren’t even in on the conversation.

  • Porcell

    Ignatius’ main point makes sense that the authorities concerned with rules of war need to have a look at drone warfare, though such warfare in itself has made air warfare more humane.

    When a nation is involved in a just war, drones are an excellent weapon that save lives of airmen and innocent civilians on the ground. Same goes for precision guided weapons.

    Bottom line, drones are a first-class weapon and are here to stay, notwithstanding the sensibilities of tender souls who lack an understanding of the necessity for just war in the first place given the reality of fallen human beings. With savages like Saddam Hussein and Islamic jihadis afoot, drones are a salutary development.

  • Porcell

    Ignatius’ main point makes sense that the authorities concerned with rules of war need to have a look at drone warfare, though such warfare in itself has made air warfare more humane.

    When a nation is involved in a just war, drones are an excellent weapon that save lives of airmen and innocent civilians on the ground. Same goes for precision guided weapons.

    Bottom line, drones are a first-class weapon and are here to stay, notwithstanding the sensibilities of tender souls who lack an understanding of the necessity for just war in the first place given the reality of fallen human beings. With savages like Saddam Hussein and Islamic jihadis afoot, drones are a salutary development.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Porcell, Computer-to-flesh-personal-vengeance-devices are evil tools of Satan invented by perverse men and should be destroyed just as their use destroys any pretense to just war.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Porcell, Computer-to-flesh-personal-vengeance-devices are evil tools of Satan invented by perverse men and should be destroyed just as their use destroys any pretense to just war.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    My take is that if indeed one can take out the wicked men who lead others into war without killing everybody else, this is a wonderful affirmation of Augustine’s just war theory. More or less, for the first time in history, it may be practical to take out a Hitler or Bin Laden without annihilating whole cities–war then rests on the wicked, as it should.

    Of course, since Bin Laden is apparently still alive, it’s not entirely clear that the promise of these weapons has been THAT fully realized, but let’s be real; how many soldiers have wished that the guy who started the war got killed instead of the guys they were shooting at? Maybe, just maybe….

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    My take is that if indeed one can take out the wicked men who lead others into war without killing everybody else, this is a wonderful affirmation of Augustine’s just war theory. More or less, for the first time in history, it may be practical to take out a Hitler or Bin Laden without annihilating whole cities–war then rests on the wicked, as it should.

    Of course, since Bin Laden is apparently still alive, it’s not entirely clear that the promise of these weapons has been THAT fully realized, but let’s be real; how many soldiers have wished that the guy who started the war got killed instead of the guys they were shooting at? Maybe, just maybe….

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Yes, Bike, if only war could be a chess game. (sigh)

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Yes, Bike, if only war could be a chess game. (sigh)

  • Tom Hering

    On the one hand: the carpet bombing of cities in WWII; the Dresden firestorm; the atomic annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the use of Napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam. On the other hand: drone strikes. Morally: no contest.

  • Tom Hering

    On the one hand: the carpet bombing of cities in WWII; the Dresden firestorm; the atomic annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the use of Napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam. On the other hand: drone strikes. Morally: no contest.

  • http://www.Utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I say, let the saudi’s make there own.
    Drones aren’t evil, no more evil than the crossbow.
    That war is necessary is a sad reality in this world. That there are brave men willing to go to war when necessary is a great blessing, and those men are a great blessing. If using drones in certain theaters saves us from having to expend the lives of those brave men then we should be thankful we have them. Unfortunately, not the entirety of the war will be fought that way, or can be, and there will always be need for men to go play dodge ball with bullets.
    Perhaps one holds a bit of romanticism about fighting a war man to man, but I find most who have done so don’t see much romantic about it.

  • http://www.Utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I say, let the saudi’s make there own.
    Drones aren’t evil, no more evil than the crossbow.
    That war is necessary is a sad reality in this world. That there are brave men willing to go to war when necessary is a great blessing, and those men are a great blessing. If using drones in certain theaters saves us from having to expend the lives of those brave men then we should be thankful we have them. Unfortunately, not the entirety of the war will be fought that way, or can be, and there will always be need for men to go play dodge ball with bullets.
    Perhaps one holds a bit of romanticism about fighting a war man to man, but I find most who have done so don’t see much romantic about it.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    War drone against war drone – don’t have any problems with that. Like a that chess game after all. In these conversations I just like to picture the drone chasing down my wife and children for no readily apparent reason. They are evil. Much more evil than the crossbow.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    War drone against war drone – don’t have any problems with that. Like a that chess game after all. In these conversations I just like to picture the drone chasing down my wife and children for no readily apparent reason. They are evil. Much more evil than the crossbow.

  • S Bauer

    Just like every other technological advance, this type of weapon is a two-edged sword – it comes with as many minuses as it does pluses. The pilotless drone, comparatively cheap and easy to build, will become ubiquitous. The Saudis will make them, Iran will make them, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda…

    Then watch the fun begin.

  • S Bauer

    Just like every other technological advance, this type of weapon is a two-edged sword – it comes with as many minuses as it does pluses. The pilotless drone, comparatively cheap and easy to build, will become ubiquitous. The Saudis will make them, Iran will make them, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda…

    Then watch the fun begin.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    So, yes, I agree, Bror. If we are going to have them, then let everyone make their own. Otherwise destroy them all. I would rather live without them, I think I’ve made my opinion sufficiently clear.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    So, yes, I agree, Bror. If we are going to have them, then let everyone make their own. Otherwise destroy them all. I would rather live without them, I think I’ve made my opinion sufficiently clear.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    …and yes, Bror, I’m a hopeless romantic. There’s no denying that.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    …and yes, Bror, I’m a hopeless romantic. There’s no denying that.

  • Dan Kempin

    “Can or should anything be done?”

    Sure. Just put the genie back in the bottle.

    On a less sarcastic note, these things were bound to come. They are the judgments that God sends forth into the world. “To him was given the power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other.”

    Things are not going to get better before the end. Preach you the Word.

  • Dan Kempin

    “Can or should anything be done?”

    Sure. Just put the genie back in the bottle.

    On a less sarcastic note, these things were bound to come. They are the judgments that God sends forth into the world. “To him was given the power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other.”

    Things are not going to get better before the end. Preach you the Word.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    I wonder about the long term wisdom to removing the risk of lose of life in war. I realize we have long had the ability to strike from outside of an enemy’s ability to respond – cruise missiles. But the use of drones seems to lower the cost even further. Maybe I am just over thinking and worried over nothing. I’ll stop rambling now.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    I wonder about the long term wisdom to removing the risk of lose of life in war. I realize we have long had the ability to strike from outside of an enemy’s ability to respond – cruise missiles. But the use of drones seems to lower the cost even further. Maybe I am just over thinking and worried over nothing. I’ll stop rambling now.

  • Tom Hering

    Bryan Lindemood, why would anyone in authority spend about $500,000.00 to chase down your wife and children with a drone? What could you or your family ever do that would justify spending those dollars? Those tasked with drone missions have to account for the cost of those missions.

    So relax. :-)

  • Tom Hering

    Bryan Lindemood, why would anyone in authority spend about $500,000.00 to chase down your wife and children with a drone? What could you or your family ever do that would justify spending those dollars? Those tasked with drone missions have to account for the cost of those missions.

    So relax. :-)

  • http://www.Utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Bryan
    The reference to the crossbow has historical reasons. When the crossbow first made it’s appearance its lethality shocked all of Europe to the point of it being banned by a church council. Of course, many just made their peace with excommunication and used them anyway.
    But ask yourself this. What is the reason the government is not chasing you down for no apparent reason right now? and what would stop them with or without a drone from doing so? and would it be any less terrifying if it was just a sniper gunning you down in Temple Square?
    Weapons are weapons.

  • http://www.Utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Bryan
    The reference to the crossbow has historical reasons. When the crossbow first made it’s appearance its lethality shocked all of Europe to the point of it being banned by a church council. Of course, many just made their peace with excommunication and used them anyway.
    But ask yourself this. What is the reason the government is not chasing you down for no apparent reason right now? and what would stop them with or without a drone from doing so? and would it be any less terrifying if it was just a sniper gunning you down in Temple Square?
    Weapons are weapons.

  • http://www.Utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    DL21,
    what is the wisdom of removing the risk of loss of life in war? You seriously call yourself Dr. Luther, and then ponder that?…
    Since the beginning of war this has been the goal, to figure out the best way of getting your enemy without him getting you. As Patton says “No war has ever been one by a guy dying for his country, they are one by making some other sucker die for his country.” So perhaps there is a certain oddity to the “sanitation” of war, Pilots dropping bombs and retiring home to the wife and kids as if nothing happened afterward. But then if it means saving the lives of our men, while accomplishing the goals we have set out to accomplish in a war, well then, use them. The less body bags taking up cargo space on the way back to the states the better.

  • http://www.Utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    DL21,
    what is the wisdom of removing the risk of loss of life in war? You seriously call yourself Dr. Luther, and then ponder that?…
    Since the beginning of war this has been the goal, to figure out the best way of getting your enemy without him getting you. As Patton says “No war has ever been one by a guy dying for his country, they are one by making some other sucker die for his country.” So perhaps there is a certain oddity to the “sanitation” of war, Pilots dropping bombs and retiring home to the wife and kids as if nothing happened afterward. But then if it means saving the lives of our men, while accomplishing the goals we have set out to accomplish in a war, well then, use them. The less body bags taking up cargo space on the way back to the states the better.

  • Ryan

    Sell them with a secret automatic detonate and/or disable circuit that only we can trigger… shhhh.

  • Ryan

    Sell them with a secret automatic detonate and/or disable circuit that only we can trigger… shhhh.

  • DonS

    War is evil because of the hearts of those fighting it, not necessarily because of the weapons. An evil man or regime can use any legitimate weapon in an illegitimate, torturous, malignant manner. Witness Nazis lining up unarmed thousands against countless walls during WWII and shooting them down in cold blood, using nothing more than machine guns. I can’t think of anything particularly more sinister about drones than about bombs dropped from an airplane at 40,000 feet, or delivered from the tip of a missile. Modern warfare involves a lot less face-to-face contact than ancient warfare, meaning far fewer casualties, but also the ability to kill without directly confronting the person you are killing. Some think that is a bad thing, but it is here to stay.

    The one exception I think most every compassionate person agrees on is chemical or biological weapons.

  • DonS

    War is evil because of the hearts of those fighting it, not necessarily because of the weapons. An evil man or regime can use any legitimate weapon in an illegitimate, torturous, malignant manner. Witness Nazis lining up unarmed thousands against countless walls during WWII and shooting them down in cold blood, using nothing more than machine guns. I can’t think of anything particularly more sinister about drones than about bombs dropped from an airplane at 40,000 feet, or delivered from the tip of a missile. Modern warfare involves a lot less face-to-face contact than ancient warfare, meaning far fewer casualties, but also the ability to kill without directly confronting the person you are killing. Some think that is a bad thing, but it is here to stay.

    The one exception I think most every compassionate person agrees on is chemical or biological weapons.

  • http://www.spaceagelutheran.blogspot.com/ SAL

    I fail to comprehend anything about drones that should distinguish it morally from any other tool of warfare.

    Drones save lives and I’m glad we have them.

  • http://www.spaceagelutheran.blogspot.com/ SAL

    I fail to comprehend anything about drones that should distinguish it morally from any other tool of warfare.

    Drones save lives and I’m glad we have them.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Yes, Bror, I actually think the crossbow and even the sniper would be less terrifying than flying robots of wrath. With the former, at least there is a trajectory you can follow leading back to a fleshy pulling the trigger.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Yes, Bror, I actually think the crossbow and even the sniper would be less terrifying than flying robots of wrath. With the former, at least there is a trajectory you can follow leading back to a fleshy pulling the trigger.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    I’ve always wondered at the idea that there are rules to war, which with the advent of remote warfare (drones and whatnot) seems to include the necessity of people being physically involved in the killing.

    The reality is that we’ve come a long way from Cain killing Abel, and each successive generation of violence perpetrated by humans against each other has removed us a little more from the killing itself (as someone point out with the advent of the crossbow, as an example). The point is that war is a horrible thing lacking morality and civility in any kind of way.

    If a weapon, however horrible it might seem in employment, allows a nation to prosecute war more lethally, and therefore usually more quickly, then so be it, as far as I am concerned. And since we know that nations possessing such lethality then acts as a deterrent toward future aggression, doesn’t that make possession of such tools a reasonable goal for nations and their allies?

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    I’ve always wondered at the idea that there are rules to war, which with the advent of remote warfare (drones and whatnot) seems to include the necessity of people being physically involved in the killing.

    The reality is that we’ve come a long way from Cain killing Abel, and each successive generation of violence perpetrated by humans against each other has removed us a little more from the killing itself (as someone point out with the advent of the crossbow, as an example). The point is that war is a horrible thing lacking morality and civility in any kind of way.

    If a weapon, however horrible it might seem in employment, allows a nation to prosecute war more lethally, and therefore usually more quickly, then so be it, as far as I am concerned. And since we know that nations possessing such lethality then acts as a deterrent toward future aggression, doesn’t that make possession of such tools a reasonable goal for nations and their allies?

  • Louis

    To drone or not to drone….

    I think the issue with it (and here I have to say, I agree with Bryan, however futile), is that we are getting more and more remote from any code of chivalry. But to be honest, chivalry drew its final breath during the first world war. But some of us still have that inate sense that we ought to attempt a chivalrous disposition. But I know, it ain’t going to happen.

  • Louis

    To drone or not to drone….

    I think the issue with it (and here I have to say, I agree with Bryan, however futile), is that we are getting more and more remote from any code of chivalry. But to be honest, chivalry drew its final breath during the first world war. But some of us still have that inate sense that we ought to attempt a chivalrous disposition. But I know, it ain’t going to happen.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Think about what you would do to retaliate, if drones patrolled your neighborhood. How powerless you would feel. What would you do? There might be no limit to what I would try if I were on the receiving end of that. There are always rules to war. And in war it always seems that you can count on consistently getting a little worse than you give. Doesn’t history teach us at least this? I think this is why wise men in the past have sought to limit themselves in respect and honor for the lives given and taken. We’ve moved so far beyond this today. So – Is it worth dying for? Evidently not. This is communicated also in the way we wage war now and our plasticized plans for the future. Whoopee!!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Think about what you would do to retaliate, if drones patrolled your neighborhood. How powerless you would feel. What would you do? There might be no limit to what I would try if I were on the receiving end of that. There are always rules to war. And in war it always seems that you can count on consistently getting a little worse than you give. Doesn’t history teach us at least this? I think this is why wise men in the past have sought to limit themselves in respect and honor for the lives given and taken. We’ve moved so far beyond this today. So – Is it worth dying for? Evidently not. This is communicated also in the way we wage war now and our plasticized plans for the future. Whoopee!!

  • Grace

    I see nothing evil in drones – agreeing with Porcell, 4 and Bror, 18 “Since the beginning of war this has been the goal, to figure out the best way of getting your enemy without him getting you.”

  • Grace

    I see nothing evil in drones – agreeing with Porcell, 4 and Bror, 18 “Since the beginning of war this has been the goal, to figure out the best way of getting your enemy without him getting you.”

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Bryan,
    It doesn’t help that when you discuss this issue you let your imagination get a head of you. Patrolling a neighborhood? Really you think they are just buzzing around little villages and stuff waiting for the target to be found?
    Not quite how it works. But when intel says the guys they want are at spot x, normally meaning some intelligence and special ops guys are at point y monitering, then the drone is sent with coordinates.
    These aren’t robots making decisions on their own. They aren’t patrolling anything.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Bryan,
    It doesn’t help that when you discuss this issue you let your imagination get a head of you. Patrolling a neighborhood? Really you think they are just buzzing around little villages and stuff waiting for the target to be found?
    Not quite how it works. But when intel says the guys they want are at spot x, normally meaning some intelligence and special ops guys are at point y monitering, then the drone is sent with coordinates.
    These aren’t robots making decisions on their own. They aren’t patrolling anything.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    So what’s the limit to these rules of war? Are firearms ok, but drones are not? Should we go back to fighting with massed pikes? Did the advent of the horse mounted archer violate those laws?

    The concept of the rules of war are entirely societal and limited to the understanding of the peoples of the time. Every technological advent in warfare has been greeted with the hue and cry that it was the end of civilization, and maybe it was, but it was also an acknowledgement that war is one of the most obvious reminders of our sinful nature and that all of our attempts to moralize it lead to more immorality.

    Don’t think that’s true? Look at the hideous casualty counts caused by trying to forcing armies to use the long since outmoded mass force attacks in the age of the firearm, which culminated in the tragedy that was World War One. If the commanders in those wars had followed the axioms of warfare: apply force minimally, precisely, and lethally, I think one could argue that millions less would have died.

    When viewed from a warfare perspective, the drone is the ultimate expression of those axioms. That mankind will use them to inflict further harm on one another is the nature of sin.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    So what’s the limit to these rules of war? Are firearms ok, but drones are not? Should we go back to fighting with massed pikes? Did the advent of the horse mounted archer violate those laws?

    The concept of the rules of war are entirely societal and limited to the understanding of the peoples of the time. Every technological advent in warfare has been greeted with the hue and cry that it was the end of civilization, and maybe it was, but it was also an acknowledgement that war is one of the most obvious reminders of our sinful nature and that all of our attempts to moralize it lead to more immorality.

    Don’t think that’s true? Look at the hideous casualty counts caused by trying to forcing armies to use the long since outmoded mass force attacks in the age of the firearm, which culminated in the tragedy that was World War One. If the commanders in those wars had followed the axioms of warfare: apply force minimally, precisely, and lethally, I think one could argue that millions less would have died.

    When viewed from a warfare perspective, the drone is the ultimate expression of those axioms. That mankind will use them to inflict further harm on one another is the nature of sin.

  • kerner

    “what would (you do) if drones patrolled your neighborhood,”
    Bryan @25

    Well, I’d probably try to find some way to stealthily attack the person who commands the drones which did not require such advanced technology, like hijacking an airline jet and flying it into the pentagon…oh wait, that’s been done.

  • kerner

    “what would (you do) if drones patrolled your neighborhood,”
    Bryan @25

    Well, I’d probably try to find some way to stealthily attack the person who commands the drones which did not require such advanced technology, like hijacking an airline jet and flying it into the pentagon…oh wait, that’s been done.

  • Tom Hering

    “Think about what you would do to retaliate, if drones patrolled your neighborhood.”

    Actually, Bryan, that’s not too far off. Companies are working on civilian versions of drones – large, small, and very small – for use by law enforcement here. These are intended as surveillance and apprehension aids, but arming them with non-lethal weapons – as well as devices that can tag a crowd protesters with something like sticky microchips – is probably not much farther off.

  • Tom Hering

    “Think about what you would do to retaliate, if drones patrolled your neighborhood.”

    Actually, Bryan, that’s not too far off. Companies are working on civilian versions of drones – large, small, and very small – for use by law enforcement here. These are intended as surveillance and apprehension aids, but arming them with non-lethal weapons – as well as devices that can tag a crowd protesters with something like sticky microchips – is probably not much farther off.

  • Random Lutheran

    A small disagreement on #17: the objection to the crossbow was not so much its lethality (you know well, I’m sure, the other, equally nasty weapons of the day), as its ability to cross class boundaries. This weapon was, for its time, portable democracy; its availability made it far too easy for a peasant (a peasant!) with minimal training and no rank to kill someone Important, whose armor, weapons, training, etc., made them otherwise all but invulnerable to the same peasant without a crossbow in hand.

  • Random Lutheran

    A small disagreement on #17: the objection to the crossbow was not so much its lethality (you know well, I’m sure, the other, equally nasty weapons of the day), as its ability to cross class boundaries. This weapon was, for its time, portable democracy; its availability made it far too easy for a peasant (a peasant!) with minimal training and no rank to kill someone Important, whose armor, weapons, training, etc., made them otherwise all but invulnerable to the same peasant without a crossbow in hand.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@29), perhaps you were just being snarky, but I believe you got your cause-and-effect backwards there, no?

    So, for everyone who’s cool with drones — hey, it’s only war — are you also okay with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and massive terror strikes a la 9/11*? I can see that DonS (@20) doesn’t think so — “The one exception I think most every compassionate person agrees on is chemical or biological weapons” — though I’m not sure why.

    Hey, for that matter, what about torture? Is it okay to torture our enemies? I mean, you know, only if it’ll save lives, right? It’s just a numbers game, right?

    *Of course, the 9/11 terrorists did fight us face-to-face, and even killed themselves in the process, which would appear to make them rather more chivalrous than any drone warrior, not that I expect anyone to concede this point.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@29), perhaps you were just being snarky, but I believe you got your cause-and-effect backwards there, no?

    So, for everyone who’s cool with drones — hey, it’s only war — are you also okay with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and massive terror strikes a la 9/11*? I can see that DonS (@20) doesn’t think so — “The one exception I think most every compassionate person agrees on is chemical or biological weapons” — though I’m not sure why.

    Hey, for that matter, what about torture? Is it okay to torture our enemies? I mean, you know, only if it’ll save lives, right? It’s just a numbers game, right?

    *Of course, the 9/11 terrorists did fight us face-to-face, and even killed themselves in the process, which would appear to make them rather more chivalrous than any drone warrior, not that I expect anyone to concede this point.

  • Tom Hering

    But Random, wasn’t that boundary already non-existent, what with pikemen and longbowmen arrayed against mounted knights? By the way, the crossbow dates back to 5th century B.C. Greece and China.

  • Tom Hering

    But Random, wasn’t that boundary already non-existent, what with pikemen and longbowmen arrayed against mounted knights? By the way, the crossbow dates back to 5th century B.C. Greece and China.

  • Tom Hering

    tODD, what are your specific objections to the use of drones in warfare?

  • Tom Hering

    tODD, what are your specific objections to the use of drones in warfare?

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Bror, I wonder about the wisdom because it strikes me that it makes it all too easy to consider war. I agree with Patton, if it comes to having to fight it is better to have the other guy die for his country.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Bror, I wonder about the wisdom because it strikes me that it makes it all too easy to consider war. I agree with Patton, if it comes to having to fight it is better to have the other guy die for his country.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Random Lutheran,
    Been reading “God’s Battalions”?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Random Lutheran,
    Been reading “God’s Battalions”?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    The objection to chemical and biological weapons is in the torturous and often indiscriminate way they kill.
    But if you are going to object to drones, and I suspect the objection has a lot to do with their name, then you have to object also to Cruise missiles etc. They do the same thing. And they are not meant to kill in particularly torturous ways, though it could happen they do, just as some die torturously of full metal jackets.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    The objection to chemical and biological weapons is in the torturous and often indiscriminate way they kill.
    But if you are going to object to drones, and I suspect the objection has a lot to do with their name, then you have to object also to Cruise missiles etc. They do the same thing. And they are not meant to kill in particularly torturous ways, though it could happen they do, just as some die torturously of full metal jackets.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    DL21,
    I’m not sure that your argument holds much water. For one you would have to show that leaders are carelessly throwing us into war because of the use of drones. And I don’t think you could make that case. Fighter jets and bombers were doing the same. But the fact is in the end you need boots on the ground, and the lives of men will be at stake, and our presidents have known that in the past and will continue to do so.
    this is about minimizing the risk, not eliminating it.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    DL21,
    I’m not sure that your argument holds much water. For one you would have to show that leaders are carelessly throwing us into war because of the use of drones. And I don’t think you could make that case. Fighter jets and bombers were doing the same. But the fact is in the end you need boots on the ground, and the lives of men will be at stake, and our presidents have known that in the past and will continue to do so.
    this is about minimizing the risk, not eliminating it.

  • kerner

    tODD:

    I was being snarky, but I think the point holds up regardless of who did what first. I guess I don’t agree with Bryan that causing the deaths of the enemy from a safe distance is immoral. As Random points out @31, knights were so heavily armored that it was really hard for anyone other than another knight to kill him, and other knights were often more interested in capturing each other for ransom than killing each other.

    Thus, the “chivalrous” armored knight was a lot more like the drone warrior than we might think at first blush. And like the knight or other class conscious moralist, we today get all hot and bothered when someone we don’t like comes up with an idea that brings down someone who thought he was untouchable.

    As for the actual 9/11 bombers, my objection to them was that some of their targets were civilians. Their attack on the Pentagon was an act of war that deserved a vigorous response with all our resourses, but I didn’t find it immoral or outrageous, because the Pentagon is a military target from which our military operations are planned.

  • kerner

    tODD:

    I was being snarky, but I think the point holds up regardless of who did what first. I guess I don’t agree with Bryan that causing the deaths of the enemy from a safe distance is immoral. As Random points out @31, knights were so heavily armored that it was really hard for anyone other than another knight to kill him, and other knights were often more interested in capturing each other for ransom than killing each other.

    Thus, the “chivalrous” armored knight was a lot more like the drone warrior than we might think at first blush. And like the knight or other class conscious moralist, we today get all hot and bothered when someone we don’t like comes up with an idea that brings down someone who thought he was untouchable.

    As for the actual 9/11 bombers, my objection to them was that some of their targets were civilians. Their attack on the Pentagon was an act of war that deserved a vigorous response with all our resourses, but I didn’t find it immoral or outrageous, because the Pentagon is a military target from which our military operations are planned.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Perhaps not the distance, but the inhumanity. For those attacked the fleshy behind the bot might as well be on Mars. So perhaps its a little bit o’ both. If you guys are all fine with the other side adopting similar tactics, I guess my argument is gone. I don’t think we would be that fine with it, though, staring down that muzzle. They are horrifying prospects to me. You feel we should put our troops in front of them. I don’t agree.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Perhaps not the distance, but the inhumanity. For those attacked the fleshy behind the bot might as well be on Mars. So perhaps its a little bit o’ both. If you guys are all fine with the other side adopting similar tactics, I guess my argument is gone. I don’t think we would be that fine with it, though, staring down that muzzle. They are horrifying prospects to me. You feel we should put our troops in front of them. I don’t agree.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    tODD (#32), et al,

    Perhaps the conversation would be easier to have if we were to define our concepts of things like peace and war a little more clearly than we usually do.

    From my point of view, war represents the failure of all the things we’re worrying about: morality, diplomacy, chivalry, etc. War represents the point at which a group of people has decided that the only way a problem can be resolved is by killing other people. There is no way to avoid the fact that killing is the inevitable outcome of war, whatever its scale.

    It is the inevitability of killing that leads to the axioms of warfare, whatever form they might take, but usually: proportionality, lethality, precision. It is these axioms, when properly followed, that keep warfare to a minimum and limit its magnitude and scope.

    So, with those ideas in mind, what is the difference between the use of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and drones? NBC weapons all suffer from the huge drawback that they fail at two out of the three axioms I cited. They’re almost never proportional nor are they ever precise. On the other hand, drones represent almost the opposite of those weapons: they can be extremely proportional and can be terribly precise. Certainly, they present other problems, but from a war fighting standpoint, they represent one of the best weapons we could field if we want to fight war in the most effective way we can.

    As for torture, it is rarely a tool of warfare, but rather one of intelligence gathering. That warfare and intelligence gathering often go hand-in-hand is an inevitable reality, but I don’t think we can create a parallel between the use of it and the use of drones.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    tODD (#32), et al,

    Perhaps the conversation would be easier to have if we were to define our concepts of things like peace and war a little more clearly than we usually do.

    From my point of view, war represents the failure of all the things we’re worrying about: morality, diplomacy, chivalry, etc. War represents the point at which a group of people has decided that the only way a problem can be resolved is by killing other people. There is no way to avoid the fact that killing is the inevitable outcome of war, whatever its scale.

    It is the inevitability of killing that leads to the axioms of warfare, whatever form they might take, but usually: proportionality, lethality, precision. It is these axioms, when properly followed, that keep warfare to a minimum and limit its magnitude and scope.

    So, with those ideas in mind, what is the difference between the use of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and drones? NBC weapons all suffer from the huge drawback that they fail at two out of the three axioms I cited. They’re almost never proportional nor are they ever precise. On the other hand, drones represent almost the opposite of those weapons: they can be extremely proportional and can be terribly precise. Certainly, they present other problems, but from a war fighting standpoint, they represent one of the best weapons we could field if we want to fight war in the most effective way we can.

    As for torture, it is rarely a tool of warfare, but rather one of intelligence gathering. That warfare and intelligence gathering often go hand-in-hand is an inevitable reality, but I don’t think we can create a parallel between the use of it and the use of drones.

  • Louis

    Effective longbow men could bring heavily armed and armoured knights down at quite a decent distance: Witness Agincourt. The longbow was also much more accurate than the crossbow, and there was an expectation that all and sundry should regularly practice so as to keep the availabilty of a sizeable body of longbowmen.

    As such I’m not sure about the social impact of the crossbow as mentioned by others here.

    I do think that there are two factors not mentioned here: one is that the attitude toward death, especially death in battle was quite different in previous ages. Also, you could honour your enemy, and still kill him. For instance, when Manfred von Richthofen was shot down, he was given a full military funeral by the Allies, because he was an honoured enemy.

    Have we lost something? Yes! There is no more “fighting like gentlemen”, no more war with honour. Victory at all costs, victory at the cost of honour and all that.

    But: It doesn’t help to close the barn door after the horse has bolted. But it is a pity.

  • Louis

    Effective longbow men could bring heavily armed and armoured knights down at quite a decent distance: Witness Agincourt. The longbow was also much more accurate than the crossbow, and there was an expectation that all and sundry should regularly practice so as to keep the availabilty of a sizeable body of longbowmen.

    As such I’m not sure about the social impact of the crossbow as mentioned by others here.

    I do think that there are two factors not mentioned here: one is that the attitude toward death, especially death in battle was quite different in previous ages. Also, you could honour your enemy, and still kill him. For instance, when Manfred von Richthofen was shot down, he was given a full military funeral by the Allies, because he was an honoured enemy.

    Have we lost something? Yes! There is no more “fighting like gentlemen”, no more war with honour. Victory at all costs, victory at the cost of honour and all that.

    But: It doesn’t help to close the barn door after the horse has bolted. But it is a pity.

  • Louis

    Question: Sure, war is hell (Sherman). But when did we stop fighting like gentlemen? Was it World War 1? Or maybe earlier (American Civil War).Although some colonial wars/wars of conquest were quote nasty as well.

    Thus drones are maybe not really a radically new line that we are crossing…

  • Louis

    Question: Sure, war is hell (Sherman). But when did we stop fighting like gentlemen? Was it World War 1? Or maybe earlier (American Civil War).Although some colonial wars/wars of conquest were quote nasty as well.

    Thus drones are maybe not really a radically new line that we are crossing…

  • Porcell

    Kerner: but I didn’t find it immoral or outrageous, because the Pentagon is a military target from which our military operations are planned.

    A fundamental tenet of just war is that only duly constituted public authorities may wage war. Consequently the attack of these savages even of the Pentagon lacked any moral foundation.

    It’s, also, why as unlawful enemy combatants they lacked the rights of prisoners of war; the Bush administration had every right to use tough interrogation techniques on those of them who had vital information.

  • Porcell

    Kerner: but I didn’t find it immoral or outrageous, because the Pentagon is a military target from which our military operations are planned.

    A fundamental tenet of just war is that only duly constituted public authorities may wage war. Consequently the attack of these savages even of the Pentagon lacked any moral foundation.

    It’s, also, why as unlawful enemy combatants they lacked the rights of prisoners of war; the Bush administration had every right to use tough interrogation techniques on those of them who had vital information.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m a bit late to reply (occasionally, I have a life), but …

    Bror said (@37), “The objection to chemical and biological weapons is in the torturous and often indiscriminate way they kill.” Agreed. The question this then raises is: is this not also true for drones? Okay, they are not likely any more “torturous” than most other modern weapons. But I’ve read plenty of news articles about drones killing the wrong people (i.e. civilians).

    As I understand it, bombs or missiles are typically used against large targets that are (it is hoped) unambiguously associated with the enemy — war factories, missile silos, nuclear plants, whatever. Places where it’s not difficult to argue that everyone nearby is part of the enemy.

    Drones take that “death from above” mentality and allow it — in theory — to be used at a much more personal level. At least, that’s what I always hear about, with a drone taking out this person or that meeting of a few people. But it’s really hard, even with current technology, to be certain that what you’re seeing on your monitor is really, thousands of miles away, the guy you’re after. So we read stories of weddings being attacked by drones. Even if it’s possible that enemy targets were at those weddings, isn’t that still “indiscriminate”?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m a bit late to reply (occasionally, I have a life), but …

    Bror said (@37), “The objection to chemical and biological weapons is in the torturous and often indiscriminate way they kill.” Agreed. The question this then raises is: is this not also true for drones? Okay, they are not likely any more “torturous” than most other modern weapons. But I’ve read plenty of news articles about drones killing the wrong people (i.e. civilians).

    As I understand it, bombs or missiles are typically used against large targets that are (it is hoped) unambiguously associated with the enemy — war factories, missile silos, nuclear plants, whatever. Places where it’s not difficult to argue that everyone nearby is part of the enemy.

    Drones take that “death from above” mentality and allow it — in theory — to be used at a much more personal level. At least, that’s what I always hear about, with a drone taking out this person or that meeting of a few people. But it’s really hard, even with current technology, to be certain that what you’re seeing on your monitor is really, thousands of miles away, the guy you’re after. So we read stories of weddings being attacked by drones. Even if it’s possible that enemy targets were at those weddings, isn’t that still “indiscriminate”?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner said (@39), “As for the actual 9/11 bombers, my objection to them was that some of their targets were civilians.” Okay, sure, but that argument could also be leveled at the atomic bombs that ended WWII — do you likewise apply it to those actions? If not, why not?

    I feel like, if the argument is a numbers game, in which it is better to kill N people, in the hopes of preventing a subsequent action that would kill 10N, 100N, or even more people, then there’s not really any military technology you couldn’t justify — including chemical or nuclear weapons, or actions against civilians.

    So I just want to know what your thoughts are. If killing civilians is wrong, what is your take on the many civilians that have been killed by drones? And note that my argument is that drones are inherently more prone to killing the wrong people, due to our reliance on long-distance intelligence. If my argument is incorrect, someone can inform me. But I feel that it is less likely for “boots on the ground” to kill civilians than drones.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner said (@39), “As for the actual 9/11 bombers, my objection to them was that some of their targets were civilians.” Okay, sure, but that argument could also be leveled at the atomic bombs that ended WWII — do you likewise apply it to those actions? If not, why not?

    I feel like, if the argument is a numbers game, in which it is better to kill N people, in the hopes of preventing a subsequent action that would kill 10N, 100N, or even more people, then there’s not really any military technology you couldn’t justify — including chemical or nuclear weapons, or actions against civilians.

    So I just want to know what your thoughts are. If killing civilians is wrong, what is your take on the many civilians that have been killed by drones? And note that my argument is that drones are inherently more prone to killing the wrong people, due to our reliance on long-distance intelligence. If my argument is incorrect, someone can inform me. But I feel that it is less likely for “boots on the ground” to kill civilians than drones.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dlhitzeman (@41), I’m probably just repeating myself, but since you called me out by name, I see that you have laid down some axioms (whether they are universally agreed upon is a side question, though an interesting one) by which military technology should abide: “proportionality, lethality, precision”. Fair enough.

    My question then becomes: what do you say about the atomic bombs that ended our involvement in WWII? You admitted that “NBC weapons … fail at two out of the three axioms,” which would seem to include those two bombs, but I’m not sure what you think.

    I just feel that most people here — and I include myself — are relying on feelings rather than logical rules. It took me a while to hammer out why I didn’t like drones.

    In the end, I’ve decided it’s not so much the drones themselves that are the problem, but the way in which they’re (mis)used, and what they tell us about our approach in general. Much has been said, by people who know way more than me, about the trend in our war efforts towards an (over)reliance on technology, away from human-level enterprises. We dismantled a lot of our human intelligence infrastructure in favor of relying on satellites and the like.

    In that light, drones are kind of like — forgive the metaphor pulled out of thin air — a computerized phone system. It’s capable, in theory, of doing the job it was created for (safely killing bad guys a few at a time vs. answering people’s frequent questions) cheaply and without all that difficulty managing humans. But if you just look at the numbers involved, you may miss the fact that it’s actually quite terrible at its job (often kills the wrong people vs. frustrates the hell out of some poor caller who finds himself repeatedly pressing 0 in the hopes of reaching a human who can actually answer his question). But the system stays in place because the wrong metrics are being used (cheaper, safer for those implementing it vs. pretty much only cheaper). I don’t know.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dlhitzeman (@41), I’m probably just repeating myself, but since you called me out by name, I see that you have laid down some axioms (whether they are universally agreed upon is a side question, though an interesting one) by which military technology should abide: “proportionality, lethality, precision”. Fair enough.

    My question then becomes: what do you say about the atomic bombs that ended our involvement in WWII? You admitted that “NBC weapons … fail at two out of the three axioms,” which would seem to include those two bombs, but I’m not sure what you think.

    I just feel that most people here — and I include myself — are relying on feelings rather than logical rules. It took me a while to hammer out why I didn’t like drones.

    In the end, I’ve decided it’s not so much the drones themselves that are the problem, but the way in which they’re (mis)used, and what they tell us about our approach in general. Much has been said, by people who know way more than me, about the trend in our war efforts towards an (over)reliance on technology, away from human-level enterprises. We dismantled a lot of our human intelligence infrastructure in favor of relying on satellites and the like.

    In that light, drones are kind of like — forgive the metaphor pulled out of thin air — a computerized phone system. It’s capable, in theory, of doing the job it was created for (safely killing bad guys a few at a time vs. answering people’s frequent questions) cheaply and without all that difficulty managing humans. But if you just look at the numbers involved, you may miss the fact that it’s actually quite terrible at its job (often kills the wrong people vs. frustrates the hell out of some poor caller who finds himself repeatedly pressing 0 in the hopes of reaching a human who can actually answer his question). But the system stays in place because the wrong metrics are being used (cheaper, safer for those implementing it vs. pretty much only cheaper). I don’t know.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Then what missiles, mortars, etc. are not indiscriminate by that account?
    Yes there are unfortunate screw ups. Yet the point of using a drone is for the precision it provides, which tries to minimize indiscriminate killing, though it can’t eliminate it.
    But it is better than the alternative of carpet bombing the whole city.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Then what missiles, mortars, etc. are not indiscriminate by that account?
    Yes there are unfortunate screw ups. Yet the point of using a drone is for the precision it provides, which tries to minimize indiscriminate killing, though it can’t eliminate it.
    But it is better than the alternative of carpet bombing the whole city.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    tODD (#47), the problem of the atomic bombs that ended the war with Japan is a difficult one simply because of the scale that one has to consider in that case. Those weapons ostensibly prevented millions upon millions of casualties, both military and civilian, which casualties would have been far worse than those caused by the bombs. In that case, they probably met the proportionality axiom and, perhaps, the precision axiom as well. That they have not been used since then (e.g.: we did not use them against the Chinese during the Korean War) shows how rare such circumstances are.

    I can see your argument with regard to the question of what kind of metric is used to evaluate the usefulness of drones, but I think we have to be careful about assuming other weapons meet those metrics better than drones. Drone warfare is new, and as a result receives a lot of scrutiny that other weapons do not receive. As an example, very few people said a word when B-52s were essentially carpet bombing the Taliban back in early 2002, yet I an assure you that those bombing runs were probably the most indiscriminate the US has launched since Vietnam.

    My argument for the use of drones (outside of this thread) has always been one of military expediency. Drones allow the military to employ force in a proportional, precise, and lethal fashion that other weapons fail to allow for, especially in the conditions like Afghanistan. Consider how much more indiscriminate the alternatives might be if we were forced to rely on them and how much more potential for greater harm those alternatives might cause, and I think you might see where I am coming from.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    tODD (#47), the problem of the atomic bombs that ended the war with Japan is a difficult one simply because of the scale that one has to consider in that case. Those weapons ostensibly prevented millions upon millions of casualties, both military and civilian, which casualties would have been far worse than those caused by the bombs. In that case, they probably met the proportionality axiom and, perhaps, the precision axiom as well. That they have not been used since then (e.g.: we did not use them against the Chinese during the Korean War) shows how rare such circumstances are.

    I can see your argument with regard to the question of what kind of metric is used to evaluate the usefulness of drones, but I think we have to be careful about assuming other weapons meet those metrics better than drones. Drone warfare is new, and as a result receives a lot of scrutiny that other weapons do not receive. As an example, very few people said a word when B-52s were essentially carpet bombing the Taliban back in early 2002, yet I an assure you that those bombing runs were probably the most indiscriminate the US has launched since Vietnam.

    My argument for the use of drones (outside of this thread) has always been one of military expediency. Drones allow the military to employ force in a proportional, precise, and lethal fashion that other weapons fail to allow for, especially in the conditions like Afghanistan. Consider how much more indiscriminate the alternatives might be if we were forced to rely on them and how much more potential for greater harm those alternatives might cause, and I think you might see where I am coming from.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    For the sake of clarity, I should point out that I have been misusing the term “axioms of warfare” when I should have been saying “axioms for the application of force” as part of warfare.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    For the sake of clarity, I should point out that I have been misusing the term “axioms of warfare” when I should have been saying “axioms for the application of force” as part of warfare.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bror (@48), I’m not convinced that the “precision it provides” actually “minimizes indiscriminate killing” — it only changes the scale of that killing that actually takes place. Which, in itself, would be a good thing. But my point is that, along with this increase in precision comes an increased use of the technology — we are using drones to hit targets we would never have dreamed of hitting with a missile or bomb.

    Take any news story in which a drone is accused of killing civilians (say, at a wedding). Would we have ever used a missile to attack that wedding? I doubt it. As such, in such situations, the use of drones over missile attacks has resulted in an increase in indiscriminate killing. It seems (and I realize the deficiency in my knowledge here) that we don’t have all that much more knowledge of the situation on the ground, either way. But the “precision” nature of the attacks we can now pull off means that there are now more such attacks. Attacks with that level of precision require a proportional increase in the precision of our intelligence, but I am questioning whether our intel has scaled with our weaponry.

    As such, the “benefit” of “missiles, mortars, etc.” may stem from their lack of precision, requiring a greater “burden of proof” for their use, at least on behalf of a theoretical, benign user. It remains to be seen how the arguments of folks here would change if anyone besides the US were to start using drones in their efforts.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bror (@48), I’m not convinced that the “precision it provides” actually “minimizes indiscriminate killing” — it only changes the scale of that killing that actually takes place. Which, in itself, would be a good thing. But my point is that, along with this increase in precision comes an increased use of the technology — we are using drones to hit targets we would never have dreamed of hitting with a missile or bomb.

    Take any news story in which a drone is accused of killing civilians (say, at a wedding). Would we have ever used a missile to attack that wedding? I doubt it. As such, in such situations, the use of drones over missile attacks has resulted in an increase in indiscriminate killing. It seems (and I realize the deficiency in my knowledge here) that we don’t have all that much more knowledge of the situation on the ground, either way. But the “precision” nature of the attacks we can now pull off means that there are now more such attacks. Attacks with that level of precision require a proportional increase in the precision of our intelligence, but I am questioning whether our intel has scaled with our weaponry.

    As such, the “benefit” of “missiles, mortars, etc.” may stem from their lack of precision, requiring a greater “burden of proof” for their use, at least on behalf of a theoretical, benign user. It remains to be seen how the arguments of folks here would change if anyone besides the US were to start using drones in their efforts.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dlhitzeman (@49), you’re arguing for the use of the atomic bombs in WWII with an appreciable amount of hindsight — which is decidedly more lacking in the drone situation. Sure, we can now say that they appear to have ended WWII, and hey, no one’s used them since then. Who knew that was going to be the case when we dropped them, though? Would it still have been the right thing to do if they hadn’t stopped Japan’s war effort? Or if they had given way to our (or other nations’) using atomic bombs in every subsequent war? Since we cannot predict the future, our reasoning must take into consideration only what we know now.

    But it seems to me that, from that stance, someone could argue that chemical or biological weapons are also justifiable — perhaps they, too, though indiscriminate, would be the horrible strike that would end whatever war they were used in? And perhaps that would be the last time they were used in warfare? Perhaps some Muslims thought that 9/11 was a justifiable effort that, being such a drastic stroke, would cause the US to withdraw its troops and influence from the Muslim world, thereby preventing a subsequent war between the West and Islam. Of course, that didn’t happen. But I say that with hindsight.

    As for the “precision” of drone strikes, see my previous comment (@51).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dlhitzeman (@49), you’re arguing for the use of the atomic bombs in WWII with an appreciable amount of hindsight — which is decidedly more lacking in the drone situation. Sure, we can now say that they appear to have ended WWII, and hey, no one’s used them since then. Who knew that was going to be the case when we dropped them, though? Would it still have been the right thing to do if they hadn’t stopped Japan’s war effort? Or if they had given way to our (or other nations’) using atomic bombs in every subsequent war? Since we cannot predict the future, our reasoning must take into consideration only what we know now.

    But it seems to me that, from that stance, someone could argue that chemical or biological weapons are also justifiable — perhaps they, too, though indiscriminate, would be the horrible strike that would end whatever war they were used in? And perhaps that would be the last time they were used in warfare? Perhaps some Muslims thought that 9/11 was a justifiable effort that, being such a drastic stroke, would cause the US to withdraw its troops and influence from the Muslim world, thereby preventing a subsequent war between the West and Islam. Of course, that didn’t happen. But I say that with hindsight.

    As for the “precision” of drone strikes, see my previous comment (@51).

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    tODD (#52), I think your point about the relative morality of using one weapon versus another is the substance of our disagreement. I do not think there is really a way to moralize war any more than there is a way to moralize any other kind of sin. If we possess a weapon that lets us end war more quickly or that lets us reduce casualties and the number of troops we put in harm’s way, then I think using that weapon is justified.

    Such decisions are never easy and always come with the price tag of unintended consequences. If we, for example, were to forgo the use of drones in Afghanistan, we would do so by ceding vast areas of operation to al Qaeda and the Taliban, by increasing their ability to attack both coalition forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and by greatly increasing the casualties inflicted on both military forces and civilians.

    This debate over whether or not drones should be “allowed” into warfare has dominated the introduction of every new innovation in warfare since the rock, and every time, that debate ignores the nature of warfare itself in an attempt to claim that the old ways of killing each other were somehow more moral and more just than the old ways of killing each other, yet every one of those innovations has, from my survey of history, reduced the number of people fighting and reduced the casualties caused by that fight. Yes, war is still horrible, tragic, and deadly, but from my point of view, if we can limit its scope with the advent of new weapons, then so be it.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    tODD (#52), I think your point about the relative morality of using one weapon versus another is the substance of our disagreement. I do not think there is really a way to moralize war any more than there is a way to moralize any other kind of sin. If we possess a weapon that lets us end war more quickly or that lets us reduce casualties and the number of troops we put in harm’s way, then I think using that weapon is justified.

    Such decisions are never easy and always come with the price tag of unintended consequences. If we, for example, were to forgo the use of drones in Afghanistan, we would do so by ceding vast areas of operation to al Qaeda and the Taliban, by increasing their ability to attack both coalition forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and by greatly increasing the casualties inflicted on both military forces and civilians.

    This debate over whether or not drones should be “allowed” into warfare has dominated the introduction of every new innovation in warfare since the rock, and every time, that debate ignores the nature of warfare itself in an attempt to claim that the old ways of killing each other were somehow more moral and more just than the old ways of killing each other, yet every one of those innovations has, from my survey of history, reduced the number of people fighting and reduced the casualties caused by that fight. Yes, war is still horrible, tragic, and deadly, but from my point of view, if we can limit its scope with the advent of new weapons, then so be it.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    In that case, dlhitzeman, would it not be the ultimate progress in technology to now, bring back the hand thrown “rock”? Might reduce some casualties, no? They can be very surgical and precise, I understand, while getting the point across very well. I might even go for a remote controlled bot with the strength of your throwing arm.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    In that case, dlhitzeman, would it not be the ultimate progress in technology to now, bring back the hand thrown “rock”? Might reduce some casualties, no? They can be very surgical and precise, I understand, while getting the point across very well. I might even go for a remote controlled bot with the strength of your throwing arm.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DLHitzeman (@53), I understand that your argument is that “If we possess a weapon that lets us end war more quickly or that lets us reduce casualties and the number of troops we put in harm’s way, then I think using that weapon is justified.”

    My questions are: (1) Do you realize that any and all weapons (or actions) can be justified in this way, including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and even large-scale terrorism? And (2) are you arguing that drones do, in fact, “let us reduce casualties” or “let us end war more quickly”?

    As to #1, I’m simply asking for some logical consistency (or, failing that, an admission of logical inconsistency would do). As to #2, I have suggested above that these conclusions are not valid — that drones actually allow us to increase (civilian) casualties, and may actually result in a war being drawn out. In fact, as we apparently use drones in parts of Pakistan — with whom we are not at war — it arguably allows us to carry on a war where we would otherwise have no war actions at all!

    “If we, for example, were to forgo the use of drones in Afghanistan, we would do so by ceding vast areas of operation to al Qaeda and the Taliban.” And, um, that would differ from the current situation … how? As I understand it, the only areas we control in Afghanistan are a few urban areas and the sky over the rest of the country, where our drones are flying.

    Again, the issue I’m raising is not that “the old ways of killing each other were somehow more moral and more just than the new ways of killing each other”. I’m not worried so much about how the new weapons affect our enemies, but how they affect us and the way we wage war. When we can kill someone from afar with relative ease and safety, without much fuss, does it make it too easy for us to launch unnecessary strikes, or to shrug when those strikes inevitably go awry? We’re all familiar with the amount of bureaucracy (thankfully) built into the launching of a nuclear weapon. No President would dare launch a nuke without seriously considering its impact on both our country and that of our enemy. Not so with drones. We can carry out a war on a country we’re not at war with, and without Americans back home knowing or caring. But what effect does it have on our relations with that country and its citizens?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DLHitzeman (@53), I understand that your argument is that “If we possess a weapon that lets us end war more quickly or that lets us reduce casualties and the number of troops we put in harm’s way, then I think using that weapon is justified.”

    My questions are: (1) Do you realize that any and all weapons (or actions) can be justified in this way, including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and even large-scale terrorism? And (2) are you arguing that drones do, in fact, “let us reduce casualties” or “let us end war more quickly”?

    As to #1, I’m simply asking for some logical consistency (or, failing that, an admission of logical inconsistency would do). As to #2, I have suggested above that these conclusions are not valid — that drones actually allow us to increase (civilian) casualties, and may actually result in a war being drawn out. In fact, as we apparently use drones in parts of Pakistan — with whom we are not at war — it arguably allows us to carry on a war where we would otherwise have no war actions at all!

    “If we, for example, were to forgo the use of drones in Afghanistan, we would do so by ceding vast areas of operation to al Qaeda and the Taliban.” And, um, that would differ from the current situation … how? As I understand it, the only areas we control in Afghanistan are a few urban areas and the sky over the rest of the country, where our drones are flying.

    Again, the issue I’m raising is not that “the old ways of killing each other were somehow more moral and more just than the new ways of killing each other”. I’m not worried so much about how the new weapons affect our enemies, but how they affect us and the way we wage war. When we can kill someone from afar with relative ease and safety, without much fuss, does it make it too easy for us to launch unnecessary strikes, or to shrug when those strikes inevitably go awry? We’re all familiar with the amount of bureaucracy (thankfully) built into the launching of a nuclear weapon. No President would dare launch a nuke without seriously considering its impact on both our country and that of our enemy. Not so with drones. We can carry out a war on a country we’re not at war with, and without Americans back home knowing or caring. But what effect does it have on our relations with that country and its citizens?

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    @38 Bror

    I realize this may be completely dead by now, however. I seem to recall a certain president lobbing missiles at nations to divert attention from his indiscretions. Also, are you really that limited in the scope of your thinking? Is not the next logical step in drone proliferation remote ground units? We already employ remote ground units for surveillance and explosives detail. How long will it be before somebody gets the bright idea to mount a minigun/grenade launcher on one?

    I am not sure that with human sinfulness it is a good idea to make it too sanitary to wage war. We already find too many reasons to kill the other guy now. How much easier will it be for us to consider killing the other guy if ours sits at a computer half a world away?

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    @38 Bror

    I realize this may be completely dead by now, however. I seem to recall a certain president lobbing missiles at nations to divert attention from his indiscretions. Also, are you really that limited in the scope of your thinking? Is not the next logical step in drone proliferation remote ground units? We already employ remote ground units for surveillance and explosives detail. How long will it be before somebody gets the bright idea to mount a minigun/grenade launcher on one?

    I am not sure that with human sinfulness it is a good idea to make it too sanitary to wage war. We already find too many reasons to kill the other guy now. How much easier will it be for us to consider killing the other guy if ours sits at a computer half a world away?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “I seem to recall a certain president lobbing missiles at nations to divert attention from his indiscretions.” Huh, and I seem to recall the man whose name you use in your own handle explaining the Eighth Commandment as meaning that we should “put the best construction on everything”.

    One wonders if you might be defaming two people by writing such statements (@56) under such a pen name.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “I seem to recall a certain president lobbing missiles at nations to divert attention from his indiscretions.” Huh, and I seem to recall the man whose name you use in your own handle explaining the Eighth Commandment as meaning that we should “put the best construction on everything”.

    One wonders if you might be defaming two people by writing such statements (@56) under such a pen name.

  • Random Lutheran

    #36, Bror: No, I haven’t, but I will put it on my list.

  • Random Lutheran

    #36, Bror: No, I haven’t, but I will put it on my list.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    Bryan (#54), the irony to your irony is that kind of change is exactly where modern military technology is headed. The advent of weapons like drones and gps guided, low explosive bombs represent a significant reversal from the general “bigger is better” trend in military weaponry developed since World War Two.

    For example, the Hellfire missile, carried by the Predator and Reaper drones, is one of the smallest missiles in our arsenal. While there have been cases where civilians have been killed, usually because of bad intelligence rather than bad targeting, there have also been examples of enemies being killed in one part of a building without harming people in other parts of the building.

    So, yes, in a way, a return to the rock would be the best, if it was a tightly controlled, incredibly precise rock.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    Bryan (#54), the irony to your irony is that kind of change is exactly where modern military technology is headed. The advent of weapons like drones and gps guided, low explosive bombs represent a significant reversal from the general “bigger is better” trend in military weaponry developed since World War Two.

    For example, the Hellfire missile, carried by the Predator and Reaper drones, is one of the smallest missiles in our arsenal. While there have been cases where civilians have been killed, usually because of bad intelligence rather than bad targeting, there have also been examples of enemies being killed in one part of a building without harming people in other parts of the building.

    So, yes, in a way, a return to the rock would be the best, if it was a tightly controlled, incredibly precise rock.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    tODD (#55),

    I do understand your concerns, but why now with drones? Why not before with cruise missiles? Why not with the advent of modern special forces? Why not with the use of submarines as littoral assault vehicles?

    My issues with the concerns about the use of drones versus any other kind of weapons rest with the fact that so much of the coverage of drone use in the media is one sided and, in my opinion at least, politically motivated. Yes, civilians have been killed in drone strikes, but how many more civilians that from any other kind of weapon. Yes, drones make such strikes easier to launch, but how much more than any of the other weapons in our arsenal?

    As to the war itself, you seem to be arguing from a distinctly western way of understanding war. The elements of al Qaeda and the Taliban launching attacks from areas they consider arbitrarily named Pakistan do not have the same geographical hangups that we do. If we allow them to operate with impunity in those areas, we are almost guaranteed to lose simply because we cannot win a war of attrition fought on their home territory on their terms.

    Finally, I point back to the nature of war itself: it is human nature gone awry already, so why does it surprise us that civilians get killed, that leaders get desensitized to it, and that there are unintended consequences of our actions? That has aways been true, whether it was with the advent of mounted soldiers, the long bow, gun powder, or the drone. I would bet we will invent even more terrible weapons than those before the end, and when that happens people will wonder what all the fuss over drones was about.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    tODD (#55),

    I do understand your concerns, but why now with drones? Why not before with cruise missiles? Why not with the advent of modern special forces? Why not with the use of submarines as littoral assault vehicles?

    My issues with the concerns about the use of drones versus any other kind of weapons rest with the fact that so much of the coverage of drone use in the media is one sided and, in my opinion at least, politically motivated. Yes, civilians have been killed in drone strikes, but how many more civilians that from any other kind of weapon. Yes, drones make such strikes easier to launch, but how much more than any of the other weapons in our arsenal?

    As to the war itself, you seem to be arguing from a distinctly western way of understanding war. The elements of al Qaeda and the Taliban launching attacks from areas they consider arbitrarily named Pakistan do not have the same geographical hangups that we do. If we allow them to operate with impunity in those areas, we are almost guaranteed to lose simply because we cannot win a war of attrition fought on their home territory on their terms.

    Finally, I point back to the nature of war itself: it is human nature gone awry already, so why does it surprise us that civilians get killed, that leaders get desensitized to it, and that there are unintended consequences of our actions? That has aways been true, whether it was with the advent of mounted soldiers, the long bow, gun powder, or the drone. I would bet we will invent even more terrible weapons than those before the end, and when that happens people will wonder what all the fuss over drones was about.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DLHitzeman (@60) said, “I do understand your concerns, but why now with drones?” Well, the easy answer to that is: because that’s the topic of discussion. I’m (relatively) young enough that I don’t think I was paying much attention when some of those other technologies came to light — and I certainly wasn’t discussing them online, much less on this blog.

    Again, I feel — without much more than a gut feeling to go off here and the media reports we all must rely on for information — that drone usage has slipped below a certain level as far as public awareness is concerned. Correct me if I’m wrong, but we are not constantly launching cruise missiles on a weekly basis. Nor are our submarines constantly attacking our enemies. We hear about it when those do get used, and — consequently, it would seem — their use requires a lot of forethought and bureaucracy. But drones are pretty much a permanent fixture, and nobody much seems to care. I suppose it’s because they are “close enough”, and if several weddings are blown up by mistake through their use, oh well. These things happen. We Americans can get over it, why can’t the Afghanis?

    You complain about the media coverage being “politically motivated”, which I find strange, since drones have figured more prominently (as I understand it) in Obama’s strategy, though Bush of course used them as well. So what political machinations are you alleging?

    “Yes, drones make such strikes easier to launch, but how much more than any of the other weapons in our arsenal?” Isn’t the answer to that, as we both seem to agree: Quite a bit more easily! If there’s no difference between a drone strike and a cruise missile launch, then why are there so much more of the former?

    “As to the war itself, you seem to be arguing from a distinctly western way of understanding war.” Well, I … um … I do live in the West, yes. And not only do I live there and share its way of thinking, I usually try to abide by its laws, and suggest that our country abide by its laws, too, even if they are necessarily “distinctly Western”. Are you arguing for some sort of “We should be as bad as them” situation? Don’t we have values? Don’t we like those values?

    “So why does it surprise us that civilians get killed, that leaders get desensitized to it, and that there are unintended consequences of our actions?” Again, that question only makes sense if there is no difference whatsoever between drones, cruise missiles, longbows, etc., when it comes to civilian deaths, unintended consequences, and the effect on our country and how we wage war. If, however, there are appreciable differences between the weapons (this clearly is my argument), then we should be arguing which of those weapons is best, according to our values and purposes. Is there a reason you don’t want to do that?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DLHitzeman (@60) said, “I do understand your concerns, but why now with drones?” Well, the easy answer to that is: because that’s the topic of discussion. I’m (relatively) young enough that I don’t think I was paying much attention when some of those other technologies came to light — and I certainly wasn’t discussing them online, much less on this blog.

    Again, I feel — without much more than a gut feeling to go off here and the media reports we all must rely on for information — that drone usage has slipped below a certain level as far as public awareness is concerned. Correct me if I’m wrong, but we are not constantly launching cruise missiles on a weekly basis. Nor are our submarines constantly attacking our enemies. We hear about it when those do get used, and — consequently, it would seem — their use requires a lot of forethought and bureaucracy. But drones are pretty much a permanent fixture, and nobody much seems to care. I suppose it’s because they are “close enough”, and if several weddings are blown up by mistake through their use, oh well. These things happen. We Americans can get over it, why can’t the Afghanis?

    You complain about the media coverage being “politically motivated”, which I find strange, since drones have figured more prominently (as I understand it) in Obama’s strategy, though Bush of course used them as well. So what political machinations are you alleging?

    “Yes, drones make such strikes easier to launch, but how much more than any of the other weapons in our arsenal?” Isn’t the answer to that, as we both seem to agree: Quite a bit more easily! If there’s no difference between a drone strike and a cruise missile launch, then why are there so much more of the former?

    “As to the war itself, you seem to be arguing from a distinctly western way of understanding war.” Well, I … um … I do live in the West, yes. And not only do I live there and share its way of thinking, I usually try to abide by its laws, and suggest that our country abide by its laws, too, even if they are necessarily “distinctly Western”. Are you arguing for some sort of “We should be as bad as them” situation? Don’t we have values? Don’t we like those values?

    “So why does it surprise us that civilians get killed, that leaders get desensitized to it, and that there are unintended consequences of our actions?” Again, that question only makes sense if there is no difference whatsoever between drones, cruise missiles, longbows, etc., when it comes to civilian deaths, unintended consequences, and the effect on our country and how we wage war. If, however, there are appreciable differences between the weapons (this clearly is my argument), then we should be arguing which of those weapons is best, according to our values and purposes. Is there a reason you don’t want to do that?

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    tODD (#61),

    I think part of the problem I see with your argument is that you assume there are differences where there are none. For instance, before drones, there were cruise missiles, and they were used often and often with civilian casualties. What made cruise missiles fall out of vogue, if you want to see it that way, is that they are more expensive, less precise, and cannot usually be re-targeted.

    Before the cruise missile, there was the laser guided bomb, also less precise, more prone to cause unwanted casualties, and which also forced us to put air crews in harms way to deliver them. Mixed in with all of those weapons have been special operations forces, and other more conventional but no less deadly weapons.

    Governments have been engaged in irregular warfare (what the drone strikes in Pakistan probably most accurately represent) since there have been governments. That this particular kind of irregular warfare gets so much attention is more the function of a 24-hour news cycle and a public that does not seem to understand that warfare means bloodshed, even bloodshed we don’t want.

    I think your comment about the relative values of east and west speak most directly to that problem. By your way of thinking, we should deny our war fighters a superior weapon because we’re uncomfortable with some of its (I argue, falsely) perceived side effects, thereby consigning more of them to death and increasing our own potential risk at the cost of a (I argue, falsely) assuaged conscience.

    What we seem to forget in this debate over one kind of weapon is that we are at war. Our military forces are engaged in Afghanistan (and in Pakistan) because we were attacked. We decided to fight that war by taking it to the enemy instead of waiting for him to come to us again. In doing so, some civilians have been killed, and I know this is hard to accept, but civilian casualties are an inevitable part of war. That some of those civilians have been killed by a particular weapon is unfortunate, but it is no more tragic than similar casualties caused by bullets, rockets, and bombs that remain largely unreported in the mainstream media.

    You mention that drone attacks have slipped below a certain threshold of public understanding. When’s the last time you’ve heard about an air strike in Afghanistan? An artillery barrage? Bombs dropped by a B-2? It turns out those kinds of attacks happen almost everyday, and sometimes with civilian casualties, yet those events are rarely reported and quickly forgotten. But drones we hear about everyday. Why is that?

    Again, I argue that it is because we do not accept that war is war. War’s only purpose is destruction. It is a particularly heavy and unwieldy hammer that tends to crush whatever it hits. Sometimes it hits those we have designated enemies, and unfortunately, sometimes it hits people we have designated as neutral. That one particular aspect of the hammer bothers us more than another does not change the hammer itself.

    In other words, if it wasn’t drones, it would be some other weapon, but the nature of the think the weapon was doing would not have changed.

  • http://dennis.hitzeman.com/worldview dlhitzeman

    tODD (#61),

    I think part of the problem I see with your argument is that you assume there are differences where there are none. For instance, before drones, there were cruise missiles, and they were used often and often with civilian casualties. What made cruise missiles fall out of vogue, if you want to see it that way, is that they are more expensive, less precise, and cannot usually be re-targeted.

    Before the cruise missile, there was the laser guided bomb, also less precise, more prone to cause unwanted casualties, and which also forced us to put air crews in harms way to deliver them. Mixed in with all of those weapons have been special operations forces, and other more conventional but no less deadly weapons.

    Governments have been engaged in irregular warfare (what the drone strikes in Pakistan probably most accurately represent) since there have been governments. That this particular kind of irregular warfare gets so much attention is more the function of a 24-hour news cycle and a public that does not seem to understand that warfare means bloodshed, even bloodshed we don’t want.

    I think your comment about the relative values of east and west speak most directly to that problem. By your way of thinking, we should deny our war fighters a superior weapon because we’re uncomfortable with some of its (I argue, falsely) perceived side effects, thereby consigning more of them to death and increasing our own potential risk at the cost of a (I argue, falsely) assuaged conscience.

    What we seem to forget in this debate over one kind of weapon is that we are at war. Our military forces are engaged in Afghanistan (and in Pakistan) because we were attacked. We decided to fight that war by taking it to the enemy instead of waiting for him to come to us again. In doing so, some civilians have been killed, and I know this is hard to accept, but civilian casualties are an inevitable part of war. That some of those civilians have been killed by a particular weapon is unfortunate, but it is no more tragic than similar casualties caused by bullets, rockets, and bombs that remain largely unreported in the mainstream media.

    You mention that drone attacks have slipped below a certain threshold of public understanding. When’s the last time you’ve heard about an air strike in Afghanistan? An artillery barrage? Bombs dropped by a B-2? It turns out those kinds of attacks happen almost everyday, and sometimes with civilian casualties, yet those events are rarely reported and quickly forgotten. But drones we hear about everyday. Why is that?

    Again, I argue that it is because we do not accept that war is war. War’s only purpose is destruction. It is a particularly heavy and unwieldy hammer that tends to crush whatever it hits. Sometimes it hits those we have designated enemies, and unfortunately, sometimes it hits people we have designated as neutral. That one particular aspect of the hammer bothers us more than another does not change the hammer itself.

    In other words, if it wasn’t drones, it would be some other weapon, but the nature of the think the weapon was doing would not have changed.

  • Pingback: Grow Taller 4 Idiots Scam


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X