What's the objection to "drone" strikes?

I’ve read and heard a lot of rhetoric against the use of strikes from UAVs by the US recently, but I’m still unclear as to what the objection actually is.

The opposition talks of civilian casualties and the horror of watching people die in detail from the sky. This is the bulk of their argument, as far as I can tell (I don’t want to misrepresent them). I can understand opposition to killing, and especially the killing of civilians, but is the objection to the idea of attempting to kill the insurgents who are targeted, or the use of UAVs to do it? Would manned aircraft, infantry or tanks be better?

It seems to me that the argument should either be against the missions UAVs undertake or their specific shortcomings when undertaking those missions, with an alternative proposed.

I don’t consider myself knowledgeable enough to take real position in the debate, but I can’t help but notice the weaknesses in the anti-UAV arguments I’ve encountered. What am I missing?

Yes, people focus on the method instead of the result. We wouldn’t be doing those missions with regular planes instead of drones though.

Put yourself in the mind of some not-so-educated peasant in the middle of the “Islamic Republic” and your cousin was killed by a robot in the sky while attending a family wedding. It really does make us look like the Evil Empire in Star Wars.

If we were fighting a conventional war, fighting for our existence, I don’t think it would make much of a difference. But we’re not. We’re sending robots into foreign countries to kill hundreds of people in order to prevent some possible future attack on the US. At some point we need to ask ourselves what gives us the right to kill civilians in other countries in order to maybe prevent civilians from being killed here.

At least not in Pakistan. I doubt we’d have much issue doing it in Iraq or Afghanistan back in the heyday of the wars.

Which is much of the problem. There’s no immediate* risk for anyone on our side, so we do it casually. And that does affect the results of our actions.

*Of course, we are creating plenty of enemies for the future.

The projection by most people in the industry is for robotic warrior units to become a staple of the next generation of war-fighters. Originally, they will be controlled remotely, but eventually autonomous units will be out there, killing humans with no risk of death to the operators or even their direct complicity. This becomes quite problematic because removing the human operator’s fear of direct retaliation will probably lead to more bloodthirsty attacks.

If ever there was a slippery slope argument to be made, this may be it. I’m not positing anything as ridiculous as Skynet and a Rise of the Machines, but when you can direct a robotic tank to crush your enemies by remote control, the whole equation changes. We should be very aware of what is happening in the names of the American citizenry or any other people who employ these kinds of weapons.

But, we have had cruise missiles for a long time that can be launched from a carrier about a thousand miles away from any possible threat. UAVs are merely the next step in this dehumanization of warfare. It is a hard call to make, I am thankful to Og that I don’t have to make these kind of decisions.

Is it really better, though, if the hundreds of civilians are killed by conventional bombing or missile strikes? How are drones worse than that?

Any new technology in war is inherently scary and therefore “unsporting”. I’m sure if the internet had existed slightly less than a century ago, there’d be people complaining about how biplanes and tanks were uncouth weapons of war because it’s too safe for the guy in the cockpit.

I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating: UAVs are essentially turning warfare into a video game, and we’re “playing” it about as often in real life as people play pretend warfare on their X-box. I’ll bet that many of the people who pilot drones and blow up people’s homes have fun doing it, even if they’d like to pretend they don’t.

It’s deja vu all over again…

Why would anyone object? It’s perfectly normal to go about your daily routine knowing all the time that US directed drones are cruising overhead and can strike at any time without warning.

Read this for a local rather than American perspective.

They make it more likely that people will be killed in the first place, by making it risk-free for the killers in question.

Because the Taliban has become so good at shooting down F-15s.

Good grief. Here we go again. There was a thread on this a few years ago and it was the same hysterical horseshit. Where is the proof that we are on an indiscriminate killing rampage due to having drones (or cruise missiles as pointed out earlier, something we’ve had for decades)? Answer? There isn’t any, it’s all hysterical horseshit.

According to this wiki article the total number of civilians (‘civilians’ defined as civilians + combatants, since it’s hard to distinguish in these areas) in Pakistan since 2004 is…3,549. A bit over 394 killed a year. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that people play X-Box a BIT more than that. While not as safe as nuclear energy, seems to me that drone strikes fall into the category of death by swallowing tooth picks wrt deaths per 100,000 in a country like Pakistan. You are more likely to die of just about anything else EXCEPT drone strikes if you live there.

As always it’s fear, ignorance and a profound inability to judge relative risk and make a clear assessment of the data. People always fear what they don’t understand, and of course people see slippery slopes where they don’t exist. Simply because the US COULD use these indiscriminately they automatically assume we will, even though there is no evidence that we have gone hog wild with the things. Again…9 years, less than 4000 deaths. You’d be hard pressed to find something that has less of a probability of killing someone than a drone strike in Pakistan. Since Afghanistan is still an active war zone it’s going to have more drone strikes, and I couldn’t find an easy wiki link for the numbers, but IIRC we are talking less than 400 strikes per year there, which while high is understandable since we are still in direct combat with the Taliban there. Even if every strike averaged 2 death per year…hell, even if every strike averaged 10 deaths…you are still talking about less people dying there than die in automobile accidents in the US per year. An order of magnitude less, at least.

Even though I don’t think quibbling over numbers is appropriate as one butchered wedding party is too much for me, don’t you feel at all guilty about intentionally drawing comparisons of “total number of times an event has occurred” between two populations that have a 10x difference in number of people, not even getting started on the fact that one event is optional and can just be stopped, while the other really can’t?

I’m not making a one for one comparison, just trying for some perspective. Pakistan has a population of 179 million people, for instance, so 3,549 people killed in 9 years is the equivalent of, oh, say 1000 people dying in the US per year (roughly 3 times the population, not 10). 40,000+ Americans die each year in automobile accidents, so you are right…it’s not a very good comparison, especially when you consider that life expectancy in Pakistan is much, much lower than the US. But it’s something that people can grasp, since it’s quite obvious that they can’t grasp the miniscule number of people killed in Pakistan a year due to drone strikes.

Do you suppose others feel guilty about blowing this entire thing out of proportion? Do YOU feel guilty about tossing in appeals to emotion by using ‘butchered wedding party’ as if that was the goal? I’m guessing ‘no’.

Well, it didn’t prove too popular when it happened in New York, so maybe killing random innocents is best avoided period.

Dude, do you really want people to start mentioning how many people died on 9/11?

Edit: Ugh. Simulpost.

How many - why is that an issue for you?

Well, except we aren’t actually going around killing random civilians, but instead striking directly at presumed military targets and occasionally killing civilians in the area by accident. See, the difference is that AQ WAS attacking random civilians…that was the GOAL, not an accident.

Other than that, it’s obviously a spot on comparison for a thread like this. :stuck_out_tongue: