Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Drones Are Like Laparoscopic Surgery"

Another tip of the beret to Mad Padre's Man In Dublin for putting me on to this piece in Slate Magazine by William Saletan defending the West's use of drones in places such as Afghanistan and Yemen as being the best possible way to reduce civilian casualties. It's tempting to see a vindication of Saltaan's argument in the release today of a U.N. report saying that "For the first time in six years the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan declined", although as this New York Times article suggests, the decline may also be due to other factors, such as the ongoing drawdown of NATO ground troops.

While Saletan rightly points out that drones are still creepy for a bunch of reasons, I think he's right that they are preferable to conventional aircraft and bombs when there is time to identify the target with minimal risk. A human pilot coming in fast and worried about ground fire does not have the luxury of time and careful study of the target, as Canadian troops in Afghanistan learned to their grievous cost.


R.R.Jones said...

Agreed, absolutely. It's far easier to make a clinical decision when you're not worrying about ZU23/2 fire whizzing your way.

If we're going to send our troops to play policeman around the world, (for whatever nefarious reason), then they should be given the best we can afford; and if that best also helps reduce any unfortunate collateral damage then all well and good.
Well, that's how I see it.

Colonel Scipio said...

Agreed. I think that militarily speaking, drones are certainly a positive thing. They allow nations to strike targets in places where they would otherwise be safe - exactly the same way the insurgents plant IEDs on roads where we (ie ISAF) think we're safe. It's standard military procedure to do that, ever since prehistoric times. Strike the enemy where he thinks he's safe.

There's a justified concern about civilian casualties, but I think it's hypocritical to restrict your concerns to just drones. Hand grenades cause civilian casualties, so do light machine guns, 20mm cannon, even morphine sometimes. Should they all be banned?

People (like me) concerned about civcas, and who have seen them in action, know that drones are FAR more precise and accountable than any other form of warfare we have today. Every touch of the keyboard, every decision, every flicker of the camera could, if needs be, replayed to a court one day.

War is a nasty business but as far as war goes, drones are a comparatively precise way to do it, despite what people read in the press.

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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