Tom Engelhardt worries that unrestricted use of drone warfare, with the accompanying certainty of killing innocent persons, is nearing. A nugget:
In reality, it’s not the drones, but our leaders who are remarkably constrained. Out of permanent war and terrorism, they have built a house with no doors and no exits. It’s easy enough to imagine them as beleaguered masters of the universe atop the globe’s military superpower, but in terms of what they can actually do, it would be more practical to think of them as so many drones, piloted by others. In truth, our present leaders, or rather managers, are small people operating on autopilot in a big-machine world.
As they definitionally twitch and turn, we can just begin to glimpse – like an old-fashioned photo developing in a tray of chemicals – the outlines of a new form of American imperial war emerging before our eyes. It involves guarding the empire on the cheap, as well as on the sly, via the CIA, which has, in recent years, developed into a full-scale, drone-heavy paramilitary outfit, via a growing secret army of special operations forces that has been incubating inside the military these last years, and of course, via those missile- and bomb-armed robotic assassins of the sky. The appeal is obvious: the cost (in US lives) is low; in the case of the drones, non-existent. There is no need for large counterinsurgency armies of occupation of the sort that have bogged down on the mainland of the Greater Middle East these last years.
In an increasingly cash-strapped and anxious Washington, it must look like a literal godsend. How could it go wrong?
Of course, that’s a thought you can only hang onto as long as you’re looking down on a planet filled with potential targets scurrying below you. The minute you look up, the minute you leave your joystick and screen behind and begin to imagine yourself on the ground, it’s obvious how things could go so very, very wrong – how, in fact, in Pakistan, to take but one example, they are going so very, very wrong.