Robotic warfare is the future. And the future is now.
The US how employs 7,000 drones in its various wars; the army uses 12,000 land bots. And the number is growing by the day … with considerable urgency.
As we wrote earlier — Increasingly, the US military is using their unmanned drones, often ‘flown’ from a military base in the Nevada desert, to attack deep inside non-enemy countries with the inevitable consequence of wreckless civilians death. In the past two weeks, there have been US drone attacks in Pakistan and Syria killing innocent civilians and in Iraq and Afghanistan … and, presumably other targets that fall under the convenient catch-all of confidentiality.
In fact, The U.S. government runs two drone programs. The military’s version, which is publicly acknowledged, operates in the recognized war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and targets enemies of U.S. troops stationed there. As such, it is an extension of conventional warfare. The C.I.A.’s program is aimed at terror suspects around the world, including in countries where U.S. troops are not based. It was initiated by the Bush Administration and, according to Juan Zarate, a counterterrorism adviser in the Bush White House, Obama has left in place virtually all the key personnel. The program is classified as covert, and the intelligence agency declines to provide any information to the public about where it operates, how it selects targets, who is in charge, or how many people have been killed.
As Jane Mayer notes in The New Yorker, The Predator War, “The intelligence agency declines to provide any information to the public about where it operates, how it selects targets, who is in charge, or how many people have been killed.”
Roger Cohen has a NY Times column on this today.
Since taking office, President Obama has shown a quiet predilection for drone warfare. He’s been vacuuming up targets. There are two programs in operation: a publicly acknowledged military one in Iraq and Afghanistan and a covert C.I.A. program targeting terror suspects in countries including Pakistan.
Obama has authorized as many drone strikes in Pakistan in nine and a half months as George W. Bush did in his last three years in office — at least 41 C.I.A. missile strikes, or about one a week, that may have killed more than 500 people.
But no one is talking about these acts of war, not in any moral sense.
Sure, Roger Cohen said this:
It’s time for a reckoning, especially from a president who campaigned so vigorously against the “dark side” of the war on terror. Congressional review of the drone programs and the full implications of robotic warfare is essential to cast light and lay ground rules. The Obama administration should not be targeting people for killing without some public debate about how such targets are selected, what the grounds are in the laws of war, and what agencies are involved. Right now there’s an accountability void.
But that’s pretty small beer. Sending drones into a country should be the equivalent of sending a fighter jet or a bomber into a country: an act of war, regulated by international law.
Who wants an internal debate within the US war cabinet about the morality of robotic war? Where’s that going to get us?
We need international laws to govern these lethal robots … and the command who work their joysticks. And we need those international laws right now.