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The Smart of War

The Smart of War

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Published by Pete Willows
This is an article I wrote for the Egyptian Mail, and may run in next week's print edition;
This is an article I wrote for the Egyptian Mail, and may run in next week's print edition;

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Published by: Pete Willows on Oct 22, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Pete WillowsWord count: about 830Revised: October 23, 2012willows@aucegypt.edu
The Smart of War 
An Ostentatious BirdThe unmanned aircraft program used by the United States (the aircraftare called drones) is controversial. And this is not just because they aremonitoring sovereign airspace, and launching Hellfire missiles into nationslike Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that kill incidental civilians – their inclusion in domestic duties in the US engenders worries at home over government invasion of personal liberty. Americans don’t want to see droneshovering over their schools, playgrounds and shopping malls. But the USDepartment of Homeland Security has already been using them to monitor domestic borders for seven years.The drone program is in its infancy, with some analysts expecting tosee 30,000 drones in the skies by 2020. Comparing the drone attacks andsurveillance mission numbers of the George W. Bush administration withthe Obama administration would be misleading – for one thing, thetechnology is significantly further developed and more available today. OnePredator Drone uses more bandwidth today, than the entire US Army used inthe first Gulf War. For another thing, Bush’s policy was reliant on a “bootson the ground” theory of security that means what it implies, which issoldiers in foreign lands with a clear mission to go get the bad guys withtanks, guns and traditional military aircraft.But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered from mission creep – the American public has lost interest in large scale troop mobilizationsoverseas. The nation-building rhetoric that ushered in the Obamaadministration is no longer in use. Now, Obama can kill from a clinicaldistance, with little or no home casualties, and too, ever the law professor,Obama is presently conducting remote-controlled warfare in a nebulous, if 
not undefined legal arena. At least one US-born militant, the Yemeni clericAnwar al-Awlaki, was killed in a drone strike, which raises questions of Americans killing Americans overseas, whom have not been extended thecommon courtesy of basic US Constitutional rights, rights which are thevery fabric of the United States.And the Wars Drone OnThe United States Air Force is currently training more drone pilots,than they train fighter pilots and bomber pilots combined. And then there isthe tandem drone program, marshaled by the Central Intelligence Agency,who does not issue numbers, and neither confirms nor discusses attacks andsurveillance operations. Nor do they disclose their budget publically – their drone operations are conducted in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan … as far asyou know.The Predator Drone may be flown by satellite link, but the aircraft hasto take off and land under the supervision of a pilot from a ground station.The pilots sit in padded chairs inside sprawling operation complexes that arelocated in upstate suburban New York, Nevada and Colorado. These drone pilots do not return to a military base after a traditional military mission withtheir adrenaline in full bloom, to talk through their mission with their  buddies – rather, they instead get into their family car and drive back homethrough the peaceful suburbs of their environs to pick up their kids fromsoccer practice.The conflicting lives they live takes its toll on them psychologically,and to what extent they experience post-traumatic stress disorder remains to be seen. These pilots spend a typical shift of 6 hours a day, watching closeup, the lives of the militants they are tracking – the pilots watch the militants playing with their kids, and talking with their wives in the vegetable souqsover a period of months. And then the kill order comes. This is much more personal than releasing a payload of bombs at 20,000 feet on a target theymerely see flashing on their cockpit radar screen.The Conference of the Birds

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