As I had hoped and expected, my brief post posing a question about unmanned drones produced a large number of thoughtful and knowledgeable responses. Among all the considerations advanced, there were several that struck me as especially powerful responses to the specific question I asked. The first was the observation that drones have contributed to the militarization of the CIA [a development highlighted by the recent flap concerning General Petraeus.] The second was the argument that the politically cost-free character of drone usage significantly increases the likelihood that the president will choose to authorize drone attacks.
I focus on these two considerations rather than the many others that were cited by one commentator or another because they seem to me to be peculiar to drones, and not just a feature of war itself. They are therefore, I think, good arguments for the proposition that we ought to oppose the use of drones even if we despair of having any noticeable effect on the general imperial militarist stance and policy of the United States in general, which is the proposition I posed for discussion.
The first argument cited above had in fact not occurred to me, which may be why I was especially impressed by it. Taking all in all, I am persuaded by those who advanced the various arguments. There is, however, one consideration I should like to mention that played no part in the comments, so far as I could see. To put it simply, the use of drones reduces the risk of injury and death undergone by American men and women in uniform. Now, despite having spent a benign six months in uniform fifty-five years ago, I have in my long life had virtually no personal connection with the lives of men and women in the service and the dangers they undergo. So it is fatally easy for me to make the mistake of transferring my anger at American foreign and military policy to the ordinary soldiers who actually put their lives in danger carrying out that policy. But that, I think, is unfair of me, and a cheap off-hand response to the world. With the ending of the draft, military service became a career for many young men and women who had few other paths to a job with decent pay and benefits. It seems to me really dishonorable for me to sit back in safety and comfort and say that those men and women should run greater risks of death and injury because I think, on reflection, that a weapon that is saving their lives ought not to be used. Nor do I feel at all comfortable suggesting that if American servicemen and women suffer higher death and injury rates, perhaps that will dissuade politicians from choosing a military option. I do not think I have the right to make an argument like that unless I or my sons are the ones whose lives are being put at greater risk.
This is why I was opposed to the ending of the draft and have always been in favor of its reintroduction.
Well, perhaps we can move on to happier subjects, like thinking through what next steps we as progressives can take to solidify such gains as we made last Tuesday and build on them for future gains.