ForumsWEPRSense and Nonsense of Drones

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HahiHa
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HahiHa
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As you all know, the US military is using drones for remote attacks on targets that are difficult to reach; they sell it pretty well with the argument that they offer precise strikes with "surgical precision". Even I was appealed by that argument, even though I'm generally critical about drones.
But then I saw this article, and now I'm even more disgusted than before:
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/nov/24/-sp-us-drone-strikes-kill-1147

The "surgical precision" seems to be but a myth fed to the people in order to lull them in contentment. They hush up all the innocent deaths ( "collateral damage" ) caused by these strikes.

But it doesn't end here. I am well aware that smaller drones can fulfill very useful tasks in public services; policemen, firefighters and other professional fields already try to implement them, often to good use. Such controlled uses of drones I would support.
But private people buy drones too, and we will have to have a serious discussion about air space regulation and, more importantly, private space and security. It is obvious how flying cameras can be a threat to the private sphere; the security part also becomes a reasonable concern after you read what incidents those drones already provoke:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/french-government-on-high-alert-after-unexplained-drone-flights-over-nuclear-power-stations-9850138.html

So, do drones make sense or not? Where are they useful and where not? And how do we handle them?

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Doombreed
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Doombreed
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Justiciar

(I am going to take the risk of necro'ing this thread, in light of the recent event):

Recently, 3 Air Force Drone Operators broke their silence and argued against Drone strikes and military operations involving them.

According to them, many Drone operators bear severe psychological trauma, often suffering from PTSD and "drinking themselves to sleep every night". As such, they consider the program unethical and far less efficient than it appears to be.

President Obama has according to the source increased Drone strikes by 894% (!) compared to his predecessor in Afghanistan, Somalia and most of the M.East.

The arguments for the use of drones usually involve the supposed precision they are capable of achieving and as such, the minimal number of civilian casualties and other collateral damage.

The statistics from the article and the video are far worse than presented in the media though. It seems that the drone strikes the past 10 years have caused the death of "2736 to 4169 militants according to the New America Foundation", but also, the death of hundreds of civilians. Estimates range "from 488 to 1071 according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism". This means that even in the best case scenario, the deaths of civilians (488) are at least more than 10% of the deaths of militants (4169).

But even aside from that, is it ethical? according to the 3 operators, the psychological stress in this job is very severe, because "when you fire that missile, there is nothing to stop it".

What are your thoughts on this? Should the drone program be continued? Should the drone strikes be increased in number? Or is it truly immoral, as pointed out, the psychological stress of this job being entirely justified? Do the psychological factors play a role in the efficiency of the strikes themselves?

HahiHa
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HahiHa
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Grand Duke

What are your thoughts on this? Should the drone program be continued? Should the drone strikes be increased in number? Or is it truly immoral, as pointed out, the psychological stress of this job being entirely justified?

I think what this highlights is that drone strikes are not different from any other means of foreign armed intervention like ground troops. Civilians die, soldiers suffer from PTSD, the intervention triggers radicalization. As I already said in the OP, the "surgical precision" touted by the army is a myth. It is almost worse psychologically speaking for the local civilians since they cannot flee the coming of an army - they can get hit anywhere at any moment.

Do the psychological factors play a role in the efficiency of the strikes themselves?

I don't think so. The pilot gets the orders from above, he likely has little choice when to shoot what target. It is rather the inverse, that the relative inefficiency of the strikes is what makes this job so psychologically wearisome. Despite being behind a screen somewhere away from the actual action, you still kill people.

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Playing devil's advocate, I think the increase of drone strikes is mostly linked to the timing of technological progress. Bush might also have heavily relied on drones if he had them. This possibly hasn't much to do with Obama's politics as opposed to Bush's.

Also, I noticed in the animation "Cumulative U.S. Drone Strikes By Country" that most reported (!) civilian deaths were registered between 2009-2011, while very few seemed to have been recorded since 2012. It is impossible to say exactly why that is so, however. I can't help but thinking that the distinction between 'people killed' and 'civilians killed' is there because no precise claims can be made about how many targets were actually successfully hit. Like they know how many people they killed, how many of them were definitely civilians, but not how many of them were the actual targets.
FishPreferred
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FishPreferred
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President Obama has according to the source increased Drone strikes by 894% (!) compared to his predecessor in Afghanistan, Somalia and most of the M.East.
Yeah, so less than nine times what was already a relatively small number.

This means that even in the best case scenario, the deaths of civilians (488) are at least more than 10% of the deaths of militants (4169).
Due to incautious piloting. Otherwise, how is it different from firing rockets from a manned helicopter?

But even aside from that, is it ethical?
No more or less than it is unethical.

Quoted in the article:
"We were very callous about any real collateral damage,"

"We witnessed gross waste, mismanagement, abuses of power, and our country's leaders lying publicly about the effectiveness of the drone program,"

There is no psychological stress inherent to the use of drones in combat, nor are civilian casualties unavoidable. It's all a consequence of having the wrong people pilot them.
Doombreed
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Doombreed
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I think what this highlights is that drone strikes are not different from any other means of foreign armed intervention like ground troops. Civilians die, soldiers suffer from PTSD, the intervention triggers radicalization

But apparently the drone operators are not exactly experienced soldiers...hence why according to the source the Air Force "loses more drone operators than it trains". Even with training, being handed control of a drone can be a heavy burden because you are not given the same time to adapt as in being deployed in combat. In a war, soldiers have to adapt quickly to the danger, the new life and the risks. It is part of the natural mechanism. Sure many can't bear it, but it is the proximity of the danger that makes it different from being a drone operator. While operating a drone, you are far away from the actual combat, sitting on your desk. Since not being in an actual physical threat, the body does not need to adapt. Maybe that's the reason drone operators suffer from psychological trauma in the first place.

Obviously the alternative (ground soldier) is no better, psychologically speaking, in the one case you have no choice but to adapt, while in the other, just thinking about it can make you suffer.

Also, I noticed in the animation "Cumulative U.S. Drone Strikes By Country" that most reported (!) civilian deaths were registered between 2009-2011, while very few seemed to have been recorded since 2012.

If I was to play devil's advocate with this, I'd say that due to technological progress, the precision of the strikes has actually been increased since then.

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