A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
Allow me to state, up front, I expect to catch a lot of flack for these comments. But I have a burr under my saddle and I'm going to pluck it out.
America's use of drones to kill her enemies does not sit well with me. It's distasteful to me and most of all -- it strikes me as being dishonorable.
OK. I have been accused of being a "throwback" to an earlier age, and I won't argue that, at all. I'll go a step farther and tell you that I find little to admire about the current age and still farther to say that -- yes, I remember when America acted with honor both at home and abroad, with her citizens as well as with her enemies.
So far as I am concerned killing a terrorist with a drone is equal to placing a bomb beneath his vehicle or shooting him in the back. I don't like either.
I understand that chivalry is dead, long dead. But do we have to shed what little honor we have remaining, as well? And I understand, too, that looking the enemy in the eye as he slips his blade between the hapless opponent's ribs is pretty much the work of our Special Forces these days. Old school? You bet. Effective? Heck, yes! And ... it is honorable.
I have not been able to get past the belief that we are choosing to kill our terrorist enemies rather than capture them and then have to imprison them. Prisoners cost money, lots of money. Dead men in the desert cost nothing -- once the ordinance is dropped on them.
But -- we can LEARN NOTHING from a dead terrorist, either. No intelligence is gleaned from a dead terrorist. I have to ask -- what might we have learned from the stack of dead bodies littering the Middle East? Maybe nothing. But now we will never know. Heck, we don't even know what we DON'T know!
Consider this from an article by David Bell in the New Republic entitled: "In Defense of Drones: A Historical Argument" Mr. Bell writes: "With its explicit embrace of advanced technology over traditional methods of combat, the strategy seems designed to provoke the increasingly vocal critics who doubt the morality, effectiveness, and political implications of “remote control warfare.” Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell, making the inevitable comparison to video games, has argued that “to accept killing far from the situation of battlefields where there is an understanding of necessity is really ethically troubling.” The Economist, hardly a bastion of radicalism, has similarly asked: “if war can be waged by one side without any risk to the life and limb of its combatants, has a vital form of restraint been removed?” And just last week in The New York Times, Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution called unmanned systems “a technology that removes the last political barriers to war”—and thereby undermines democracy—because it allows politicians to take aggressive military action without having to face the electoral consequences of young Americans coming home in coffins." SOURCE: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/100113/obama-military-foreign-policy-technology-drones#
The article goes on to say: "There is nothing new about military leaders exploiting technology for this purpose. And, for that matter, there is nothing new about criticizing such technology as potentially immoral or dishonorable. In fact, both remote control warfare, and the queasy feelings it arouses in many observers, are best seen as parts of a classic, and very old history." SOURCE: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/100113/obama-military-foreign-policy-technology-drones#
Mr. Bell goes on to say: " ... Drones are not cruise missiles, or shells fired by Big Bertha. They are controllable, and are explicitly designed to allow the military to target opposing forces as carefully as possible. Of course, targeting raises its own set of questions: War that takes the form of a campaign of assassination is both morally problematic and politically counter-productive." (Emphasis by underlining is mine.) SOURCE: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/100113/obama-military-foreign-policy-technology-drones#
In an article by Akbar Ahmed and Lawrence Wilkerson in "The Guardian" entitled "Dealing remote-control drone death, the US has lost its moral compass," the authors state: "The warrior ethos may be largely a myth but, like most myths, it protects something very important: the psychology of killing in the name of the state. That killing becomes nothing less than murder when the soldier doing it is utterly invulnerable. Most US citizens, so long divorced from any responsibility to take up arms and fight and kill, do not understand this. Soldiers – good ones – do. (Emphasis by underlining is mine.)Such understanding was behind the recent cancellation by Secretary of Defense Hagel of the valor award for drone operators."
The authors go on to state that the use of drones is making war into murder and creating more problems than it is solving.
Let me be clear here. I am not pleading a case for the terrorists. I am pleading a case for America.
I, too, want the terrorists dead and gone, or at the very least imprisoned. My concern is for the damage we MAY be doing to the soul of America.
In the final analysis, maybe it's just me, as my wife would surely say. Maybe I'm just an old veteran who has grown soft in my waning years. Whatever the answer, I can tell you, without hesitation, that I do not like what America is becoming.
The use of drones instead of living, breathing, soldiers does not sit well, with me. I still prefer the exclamation "Send in the Marines" over "Launch a drone."
But understand this, America. As long as politicians can wage war without having to face an angry electorate when those silver coffins begin arriving at Dover Air Force base, you can bet they will continue to do it, even increasing the frequency of attacks around the globe. And, too, as long as the Obama administration's policy is to "lead from the rear" those drones will continue to wreak death and destruction all over the world.
But -- there WILL be "blow back." At some time -- and at some place -- a reckoning will be exacted. We may find that we are saving American lives through drone usage only to lose them to the enemy's asymmetrical warfare on our own shores.
No matter what I think, drone technology, and its usage, is here to stay. I, and those who agree with me, will just have to learn to live with it.
I think I'll go take a shower.
© J. D. Longstreet
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