Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Morality of Drone Strikes Response

This is my response to two articles about the morality of drone strikes one here and a scathing response here. The former article is actually a second article in response to things said about the same author's opinions in first piece. First off, I'll be honest I didn't read ALL of all the articles, all together they're quite long, but I did read most of them. Second disclaimer, I'm a member of the USAF, even so, NONE of what I say has anything to do with the views of the Air Force or the Department of Defense (by the way, that's true of all my posts). In this I feel I have a unique perspective on this whole issue.

There are all sorts of weapons our military uses. I'm part of one of the systems, though in most of my experience I've only been a small part of it. All I've seen is how incredibly careful we, and our allies are when it comes to finding and taking out (using the vernacular) targets. I have NEVER felt uncomfortable with how we eliminate targets. There are so many rules, regulations, and redundancies to make absolutely sure that we're targeting an actual terrorist that it can actually be frustrating sometimes. The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (or UAVs or as they're now called unmanned aerial systems, UASes) is just one of the different tools in the arsenal. It is no more moral, immoral, or amoral than a bomb, bullet, bow and arrow, or any other weapon. About the use of the system in general, yes I think it could start the users of it down a dangerous pathway to wanton killing however there is so much back-study (read: intelligence) gathered on each target that the idea that drones are supposedly causing so many civilian casualties is nonsense.

Does it allow for eliminating enemies at great distance yes, does it allow the enemy to surrender? Not directly... The rebuttal
blog talked about this at length even referencing the Geneva Conventions, and I'll admit there is a flaw in the use of such long range weaponry. The target cannot surrender to it. But then, the target can't surrender to any bomb or bullet. He, rightfully, says: "very few would be likely to waive this right for their own soldiers who one day may need to surrender, and declaring as antiquated the provisions of the international agreement that was created specifically to prevent a repeat of the mass bloodletting of World War II is a slippery slope." Yes, I agree, it's a slippery slope, but not one that we're treading down as a military, yet.

Also, there's a couple things he's overlooking in his argument: one, this is not technically a war (not at least, in the traditional sense). These are not enemy soldiers that we are attacking and then, when overrun, offered parlay or surrender or vice versa, there's no surrendering to them. These are terrorists who have declared their own war on the West, freedom, and democracy (I'll not go into the idea of whether or not it was provoked, suffice to say that we did at least somewhat provoke them). Terrorist "soldiers" are brainwashed (not to say that ours aren't somewhat too), poor, confused, and sometimes even intimidated people that don't attack the enemy fortifications or supply lines (most of the time). They strap on (sometimes under threat of force) explosive vests and walk into markets and blow up themselves and anyone/anything around them. I'm not saying the ends justifies the means; I'm saying that this is a different type of engagement, targets are hidden among the populace. In addition to the fact that these are hidden, elusive targets that must be taken out with precise means; Mr. Hussain isn't taking into account that these targets CAN surrender at any time. There are any number of police and coalition checkpoints and bases spread out all over Afghanistan or the military/government in Pakistan. Any terrorist, at any time, could turn himself or herself in to the police or the NATO forces.

The very next issue on the rebuttal blog is "No ID." In a few instances there's a possibility that after the fact we cannot confirm or deny the efficacy of the strike. However, our intelligence professionals spend days, or weeks sometimes, finding and verifying targets, ensuring that they're not innocent bystanders in this conflict. Then after a target has been verified as a terrorist the process starts all over again with a more narrow focus. Then only AFTER all these verifications have been made and the target approved, is it taken out. Sometimes there is proof e.g. the target is never seen again, or some other intelligence source says the target is dead.  Sometimes there isn't and that's not really an issue.

In this conflict, I don't feel that the US should consider ALL military age males in the combat area targets, however, it's clear that they don't and never have. Of course, there are different types of engagements, planned and unplanned. Planned is as I've described, unplanned is generally when a group of coalition forces is attacked and they call in a strike. In those types of situations the rules are different and rightfully so. When self-defense is the issue this is war and making sure our soldiers come home is of paramount importance. Just like in previous wars/conflicts, calling in the drone/bomb (though more often than not, this type of scenario it's a manned asset that is called) is basically the same as calling in the artillery except MUCH more accurate. Artillery shells destroy large areas, precision guided missiles kill targets, and manned assets can use guns, they don't wantonly drop bombs. They only use the amount of force needed to stop the attack and permit the coalition/US forces to get to safety.

I could go on all night, but I'm going to have to stop here on the drone issue. I only have one more thing to say about the war in general. As a general concept, I think the idea of a "war on terror(ism)" is impossible at best, rife with conspiracy at worst. Should the US be attempting to fight fear (look up the word terror fear is in the number one definition) with guns, bullets, bombs, and soldier's lives? I don't think so.  How does one "fight fear"?  Especially with weapons!? I am an American Airman and I will do my duty and obey my orders. In fact, I think I'm better suited for the job because I bring a perspective to the war that we should be as careful as possible to only kill those that would kill any of us if they were given the chance.