Why I’d use drones, too

By Tom Cardella

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted Feb. 28, 2013

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I don’t like killing people, but there are exceptions. If someone is going to spend their every waking moment planning to kill Americans, I’m in favor of killing them first. Even if he or she is an American citizen. 

In my mind, when you kill Americans, you are no longer subject to protection as an American citizen. What you are is a traitor, an enemy combatant. You are no different than the sniper in the jungle aiming to put a bullet in my head. I am going to try and kill you first.

We all know war today is not two armies facing each other across the Maginot line. It is terrorists flying a plane into the World Trade Center;someone with a bomb strapped to their chest walking into a crowded market; or a bunch of thugs with Uzis taking over a hotel and slaughtering its guests. 

This should be obvious to all of us who live in a post-9/11 world, but it is apparently not obvious to the president’s liberal critics. I find myself at odds with folks with whom I normally agree and agreeing with those whose views I normally find loathsome. The United States use of drones is pilloried for reasons that make no sense to me.

The critics of our drone policy cite “collateral damage,” a coldblooded military term that aims to desensitize the deaths of innocent civilians. These critics see, in the use of drones, nothing but the deaths of innocent civilians, yet it is the use of drones that reduces those deaths. I am not being cute here. 

We can argue about the degree of accuracy of drones, but when we compare it to the usual tools of war like bombing or a raid on a village, is there any doubt that drones are more efficient in destroying our target with less innocent death than either bombs or raids? I am not saying that we shouldn’t scrutinize our drone policy or that we should, in any way, be casual about any civilian deaths. 

We should tighten the controls on how and whom we target.We cannot ignore that when we inadvertently kill innocents, we create new terrorists. But is that any less the case when we use other methods of killing in war? And if that method actually kills fewer innocents, then how logical is the argument that we are creating more terrorists by using drones? 

There is much chagrin over the fact that we direct the drones from remote sites, much like playing a video game. We are killing folks we don’t even see. But those targeted are overwhelmingly terrorists. By using drones, we don’t put American soldiers in harm’s way. There would be no American bombers shot down by anti-aircraft fire and no American soldiers killed storming an enemy stronghold. I find that fact cheering, not morally bankrupt. I am happy we have a tool that lowers the casualty rate on our side and minimizes the deaths of innocent civilians on their side.

I have even seen those on the other side of the argument cite the cost to produce drones as an argument against their use. The idea that drones are too expensive only holds up if the choice is to use drones or nothing at all to get at the terrorist hierarchy. But that is clearly not the choice, unless we are going to sit back and give the terrorists all of the advantages in this struggle. The choice is between drones or bombers and more troops (or rotating the same group of troops). In the case of building a drone or new bombers, the cost argument falls apart. In the case of using drones rather than our own troops, we cannot minimize the human cost to our troops, both physically and psychologically. I don’t have any trouble defending the spending of more money on drones rather than rotating our already exhausted troops even more times into battle.

Another argument against our use of drones is whether we would want drones used against us. We must be honest here. Whether we use drones or not will not affect whether our enemies would use drones against us. You can take it to the bank — if one of our enemies were able to launch a drone attack at us, there would be no great moral debate about it. If they had the capability, the drones would already be flying over Washington, D.C. 

Our enemies use what they can against us. Our big advantage at this time is our technological ability to target their leadership no matter where they hide. The fact that President Barack Obama is using this advantage should surprise no one because the paramount duty of our president is to preserve and protect American lives. 

While the right chortles that Obama has copied his terrorism policy from his predecessor George W. Bush, I think the drone policy shows exactly the opposite. Bush got us involved in two costly land wars — Afghanistan and Iraq — Obama is ending that foolish policy and relying more on drones. We played into the terrorists’ hands by launching unpopular invasions of two countries from which we will probably not be able to totally extricate ourselves in our lifetime.

I’d rather use drones.

Contact the South Philly Review at editor@southphillyreview.com.

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1. Anonymous said... on Feb 28, 2013 at 05:48PM

“Don't forget the milk on the way home.”

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2. Sam Kephart said... on Mar 3, 2013 at 01:12AM


Published Feb 2013

Emmy-winning journalist, Shad Olson, explores the controversy over U.S. drone policy, both at home and abroad.

While technological sky supremacy gives America strategic superiority on the battlefield, the prospect of drone proliferation over U.S. cities is causing concern about loss of privacy, an end to Habeas Corpus and judicial due process and the destruction of Constitutional rights.

South Dakota U.S. Senator John Thune and former U.S. Senate candidate, Sam Kephart share their views about the consequences of domestic drone deployment in the fight against terrorism.

Originally aired on KNBN-TV, (NBC) NewsCenter1, Rapid City, South Dakota in February 2013.”


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