Tomgram: Nick Turse, The Forty-Year Drone War

By Nick Turse Tomgram

There’s something viral about the wondrous new weaponry an industrial war system churns out. In World War I, for instance, when that system was first gearing up to plan and produce new weapons by the generation, such creations — poison gas, the early airplane, the tank — barely hit the battlefield before the enemy had developed countermeasures and was cranking up his own production line to create something similar. And this process has never stopped.

The wonder weapon of our present moment is the missile-armed unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, now doing our dirty work, an endless series of targeted assassinations, in the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands. Such weapons
always come with wondrous claims. Here’s a typical one from a recent Wall Street Journal editorial: “Never before in the history of air warfare have we been able to distinguish as well between combatants and civilians as we can with drones.” When it comes to war, beware of any sentence that begins “never before,” and the claims of future breakthroughs or victories that go with them.

It’s easy, of course, for the editorial writers of the Journal to pen such confident sentiments thousands of miles from the war zone. They would undoubtedly feel quite differently if their hometowns and neighborhoods were the targets of such “precise” weaponry, which has nonetheless managed to kill hundreds of civilians.

Drones, of course, do just what they were meant to do, as surely as did poison gas, the airplane, and the tank early in the last century: they kill. That’s indisputable, but the promised “breakthroughs,” whether aimed at destroying enemy fortifications, enemy networks, or the enemy’s will, seldom follow so reliably. And yet once the wonder fades and the overwrought claims with it, the wonder weapons remain in our world — and (here’s the viral part) they begin to spread.

Read more at Tomgram



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Posted by on January 25, 2010, With Reads Filed under WarZone. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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