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Grasping the currency true to our time

"Πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει"







May 21st
12:53 PM
Via
"The Obama administration should terminate any practice, such as the reported signature strikes, that does not comply with principles of international humanitarian and human rights law. It must also introduce transparency to the drone program, including its governing rules, how targets are selected and how civilian damage is weighed."
—  from Crisis Group’s recent report, Drones: Myths and Reality in Pakistan
October 23rd
5:04 PM
Via

Running Chicken: Drones R Us

kohenari:

Watching last night’s debate, I was struck by one thing:

A lot of progressives and libertarians must not understand either presidential elections or American public opinion. I say this based on the reaction I saw on Twitter and Tumblr — but not Facebook, tellingly, which is less of an echo chamber for me — to the candidates’ brief discussion of drone warfare.

There was general outrage at the way in which the moral problem of drones was dismissed, brushed aside based on a quick utilitarian calculation that places virtually no value on the lives of non-Americans, who are simply presumed to be militants.

This is good outrage. Our use of drones — specifically, our willingness to target American citizens abroad and our callousness with regard to innocent people caught up in the carnage — is a major problem.

The mistake is in the thinking that accompanies the outrage, which seems to be that these politicians know drone strikes — or, perhaps, the use of force in general, depending on your persuasion — are immoral and continue to support them because they are themselves immoral monsters. To demonstrate that they are virtuous — and thus deserving of our vote — the candidates ought to have taken a stance against drone strikes or warfare in general.

But I think this is a misunderstanding of how presidential elections work and it’s a misunderstanding of America itself. It would be political suicide to speak out in opposition to drone strikes, or to a military option in general, at this stage in the election … and that presumes that the candidates actually oppose these things (which they do not). Why suicide? In their support for drones, for backing up Israel against Iran, and for acting aggressively on the world stage in general, the candidates are very much an embodiment of the American people themselves. Americans support the use of drones … and by a wide margin. It’s odd to think that the presidential candidates would take this moment to disagree with the electorate.

This misunderstanding reminds me of a very long argument I had with a good friend back in 2000 about the moment in the Bush/Gore debate when the death penalty came up and was quickly dismissed. My friend argued that both Bush and Gore were equally awful with regard to the death penalty; my argument was that they might not be equally awful — since Bush signed 152 death warrants — and that we shouldn’t expect a serious debate about the death penalty from the presidential candidates. When it comes to controversial topics, especially ones that touch on issues of justice and vengeance, we should, instead, expect meaningless platitudes that pander to the majority.

When it comes to drone warfare or saber-rattling about Iran, the majority wants to hear that there will be even more to come. The majority is wrong about this, as they are about many things, but it’s not clear why people are so surprised that the presidential candidates agree with the majority.

Last thing:

If you think the majority is wrong about something that’s very important, it doesn’t make any sense at all to keep expecting politicians to get out in front of the issue and tell people that they’re wrong. Instead, it’s a far better bet for the minority — who are sure they’re right — to employ reasoned arguments or sad, sentimental stories to change Americans’ hearts and minds. In the long run, this is likely to be far more effective than simply complaining that the candidates aren’t spending more time defending or refuting a policy that enjoys broad public support.

A good point. One I had to remind myself of when both candidates echoed the groupthink fixation on Iran. Great leadership dares to puncture dangerous collective fantasies, but almost never at this juncture in an American election.

July 5th
3:57 PM
Via

soupsoup:

What do the future of war look like? I spoke to former deputy secretary of state James Steinberg to find out.

May 31st
3:15 PM
Via
nickturse:

With Terminator Planet, we’ve carefully put together the best of our joint work on the subject of American robotic warfare, shaped and edited, and added a powerful new conclusion. The result is the first comprehensive history of drone warfare (with a preview of the drone’s possible future as well)… 
I hope you’ll take a look and perhaps download it as an ebook or purchase an old-fashioned hard copy.

nickturse:

With Terminator Planetwe’ve carefully put together the best of our joint work on the subject of American robotic warfare, shaped and edited, and added a powerful new conclusion. The result is the first comprehensive history of drone warfare (with a preview of the drone’s possible future as well)… 

I hope you’ll take a look and perhaps download it as an ebook or purchase an old-fashioned hard copy.

January 22nd
1:05 PM
Via
"It seems implausible that the U.S. military would deliberately reduce the warrior’s role in war to the point that people become mere monitors of autonomous, man-made technology. But this is precisely where the evolutionary trend has been heading ever since the 1940s. Autonomy is the logical endpoint of a century of technological progress."
—  Lot of stories, commentaries and policy papers floating around lately about the use of pilotless drones. If you only read one, make it this new paper from journalist Shane Harris, author of a wonderful book on spying technology called The Watchers(via ageofperil)
November 6th
12:51 PM
Via
"Of course, nobody inside the U.S. Government is objecting on the ground that it is wrong to blow people up without having any knowledge of who they are and without any evidence they have done anything wrong. Rather, the internal dissent is grounded in the concern that these drone attacks undermine U.S. objectives by increasing anti-American sentiment in the region (there’s that primitive, inscrutable Muslim culture rearing its head again: they strangely seem to get very angry when foreign governments send sky robots over their countries and blow up their neighbors, teenagers and children). But whatever else is true, huge numbers of Americans — Democrats and Republicans alike — defend Obama’s massive escalation of drone attacks on the ground that he’s killing Terrorists even though they — and, according to the Wall Street Journal, Obama himself — usually don’t even know whose lives they’re snuffing out. Remember, though: we have to kill The Muslim Terrorists because they have no regard for human life."
—  Glenn Greenwald, “The Drone Mentality” (via andrewfm)
October 17th
11:29 PM
Via

Mapping America's Shadowy Drone Wars | Nick Turse

theamericanbear:

A snip from the latest piece from journalist extraordinaire, Nick Turse (timely, given this fresh strike in Somalia):

Over the last decade, the American use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) has expanded exponentially, as has media coverage of their use. On September 21st, the Wall Street Journal reported that the military has deployed missile-armed MQ-9 Reaper drones on the “island nation of Seychelles to intensify attacks on al Qaeda affiliates, particularly in Somalia.” A day earlier, a Washington Post piece also mentioned the same base on the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago, as well as one in the African nation of Djibouti, another under construction in Ethiopia, and a secret CIA airstrip being built for drones in an unnamed Middle Eastern country. (Some suspect it’s Saudi Arabia.)

Post journalists Greg Miller and Craig Whitlock reported that the “Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen.” Within days, the Post also reported that a drone from the new CIA base in that unidentified Middle Eastern country had carried out the assassination of radical al-Qaeda preacher and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.

Finish the article here.

July 13th
1:50 PM
"

…there will be no triumphal parades for killer nano-bugs, no epics about unmanned fighter planes, no monuments to fallen bots.

And in that may lie our last hope. With the decline of mass militaries and their possible replacement by machines, we may finally see that war is not just an extension of our needs and passions, however base or noble. Nor is it likely to be even a useful test of our courage, fitness, or national unity. War has its own dynamic or — in case that sounds too anthropomorphic — its own grim algorithms to work out. As it comes to need us less, maybe we will finally see that we don’t need it either. We can leave it to the ants.

"
—  Barbara Ehrenreich ~ excerpt from an updated afterward to her 1977 Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War posted at TomDispatch.com
June 20th
11:30 AM
A prototype hummingbird drone which can fly at 11mph, hover and land. Credit: AeroVironment Inc, via AP
War Drones, Birds, Bugs and Questions

Large or small, drones raise questions about the growing disconnect between the American public and its wars. Military ethicists concede that drones can turn war into a video game, inflict civilian casualties and, with no Americans directly at risk, more easily draw the United States into conflicts. Drones have also created a crisis of information for analysts on the end of a daily video deluge.  >continue<

A prototype hummingbird drone which can fly at 11mph, hover and land. Credit: AeroVironment Inc, via AP

War Drones, Birds, Bugs and Questions

Large or small, drones raise questions about the growing disconnect between the American public and its wars. Military ethicists concede that drones can turn war into a video game, inflict civilian casualties and, with no Americans directly at risk, more easily draw the United States into conflicts. Drones have also created a crisis of information for analysts on the end of a daily video deluge.  >continue<

March 19th
8:51 PM

North Waziristan tribes declare war against US

A grand jirga of tribal elders from North Waziristan Agency on Friday said that they would wage jihad against America to avenge those killed in drone attacks.

A US drone attack killed at least 40 people, most of them tribal elders, in Datta Khel tehsil, North Waziristan on Thursday. Pakistan’s top leadership, including the army chief, have already condemned the attack.