From Pine View Farm

It’s the Data, Stupid 2

Interviewed on Radio Times, writer Mark Bowden says that what distinguishes today’s drones from yesterday’s model airplanes is not radio-controlled flight; it’s the data pipe.

From the website:

Since the U.S. launched its first drone strike in Yemen in 2002, the drone program has been the subject of legal and ethical debate. As one of the most efficient weapons in history, the drone has significantly changed the nature of war making it cheaper and less deadly for our forces. At the same time, the use of drones may inflict more harm on innocent victims with the potential outcome of spurring more acts of terror directed at the U.S. In the cover story of the September issue of The Atlantic, journalist MARK BOWDEN writes about the U.S. drone program and its many contradictions. He joins us in the studio to talk about it.

Follow the link to listen.

Whether or not you agree with some of his opinions, if you care about robotic death raining from the sky, you will find the discussion worth your while.



  1. George Smith

    August 23, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Interesting. I read the Atlantic article rather than listen to the radio thing, time considerations. He writes about Gorgon Stare, the fusion of multiple observation camera footage to cover a small city like Fairfax, VA, and being able to discern things from it. Gorgon Stare doesn’t work. It was first developed to watch Iraq roads for emplacement of IEDs. The problem with it is no human being computer combination can watch everything all the time even with the technology on. You can keep a city the size of Pasadena on digital cameras 24 hours a day but you can’t track even half of its denizens. To think so marks you only as delusional. You can condense his article’s concept into what I called Bombing Paupers two or three years ago. You can only use drones on the destitute in the impoverished places where the total failure of government, or acquiescence because you’ve already beaten them up, does not interfere by flying an air force to strike you or your tools. The Atlantic article begins with the parable of David and Goliath, likening the drone to the elegant efficiency of David’s slingshot. A more appropriate way of looking at it is that Goliath took the slingshot off David, stepped on him, and now uses it to kill others. The US is the Goliath, quite obviously, and Bowden knows that. The drone is merely technology that enables the US to kill people in singles or handfuls in the desperate places of the world, it is only effective against the poor and powerless or almost so. Handfuls of terrorists in tribes in gutted cities or lawless areas cannot bring down the US. We have done that to ourselves. Killing them with drones is just business. Will we pay a price for the technological hubris down the road? Will the paupers become so furious they get some terrible revenge? They may not. They may just remain to poor and powerless. It’s beside the larger point about this country which is that it cannot be governed for the benefit of its majority and it slowly but very certainly destroying its own people.

  2. Frank

    August 23, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Not going to argue with you.  The David and Goliath example makes the point about technology; you’ve taken it, as they say, to the next level.  What I’ve read about the experience of the Brits with their omnipresent surveillance cameras supports your position.


    Much of the rest of your comment presages my later post about Robert Baer’s article (which I had not seen when I wrote this one).  Data without a filter is just ones and zeroes, a clanging cymbal, a sounding bell, signifying nothing.


    I do, nonetheless, think he has a point about the datalink being what distinguishes a drone from a model airplane–the data-pipe give eyes to the gamers in Nevada and Langley.  They can thereby delude themselves into believing themselves omniscient.  It feeds and sustains the hubris.