Monday, 4 August 2014

The Left should be proud of drone warfare

During the Second World War, Avro Lancasters and other heavy bombers used to drop lethal payloads over German cities with the intent of creating a firestorm. "Never again" we said. But then during Vietnam, America was doing it again, dropping even larger payloads from B52s on to Vietnam. Those palm trees certainly won't be troubling the USAF again in a hurry.

Without the global revulsion at that indiscriminate aerial bombing, resulting in mass protests, we would still be doing it. This was when media perception became every bit as important as the shooting war. A victory in the field mattered not one jot if the war on our screens was not won. It is that dynamic that has driven technology ever since Vietnam, bringing us through the first Gulf War, Bosnia and Iraq to develop ever more sophisticated and smaller weapons.

Such is the lack of tolerance for collateral damage, many are still unsatisfied with the amazing statistic that out of ten thousand combat sorties, a mere 72 civilians were killed in Libya in sustained campaign over a number of weeks in 2011. And why not? It's progress, but why stop there?

Similarly shrill complaints are made about "drone" warfare. This is a mode of warfare whereby, depending on warhead selection, a small explosive can be delivered into a car window of the operators choosing. This technology has been with us for quite some time. This (old) video gives you an idea of where we were ten years ago. Imagine how things have changed now.

We have evolved beyond the need for carpet bombing and while the technology is moving toward zero collateral damage, the next step is non-lethal munitions delivered by UAV. This is exciting stuff.

In tandem with such progress, the Left and the Right (depending on who is president) make ever more stringent demands for democratic oversight, due process and transparency in the selection of targets - along with tight procedures before enacting a strike. The technology and procedure is now so good that mistakes are the exception rather than the rule.

Insomuch as Hamas frequently stage fatalities, it's a common trick to exaggerate the death toll from a drone strike. These days it's becoming less and less credible. When a claim is made that a "drone" wipes out an entire family in a single strike, one is now immediately skeptical. That is not to say that it doesn't happen but the trend is toward zero collateral damage, and that is still at the forefront of defence investment.

With the co-operation of Pakistan, we are now able to target Islamist terrorists who very much do threaten our interests and our national security without wiping out an entire neighborhood. This is a quantum leap. The use of such technology is far more accurate than sending in a team of Marines and less likely to result in a firefight that WILL kill innocents.

I don't know what goes through the minds of Leftists when they complain about UAVs. The simple truth is that without their shrill protests, we would never have arrived at drone warfare. They should be proud of their astonishing achievement.

Perhaps it is the word "drone". It is an inaccurate term that implies there is no intelligence behind them. It's not true. They are not autonomous robots and nothing is ever fired from them without a human at the controls.

It seems that UAVs are merely a convenient political football for liberals and conservatives to accuse each-other's leaders of murder. In reality, there are few more humane means at our disposal to accomplish military objectives. If UAVs aren't the answer, what exactly is? I sure would like to know.

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