Gun control is on many minds this week, but let’s not talk about guns. Let’s talk about drones. (With a reported 300 million guns in private hands in America already, it’s probably too late for gun control anyhow.) Drones are to nation-states what assault rifles are to psychotic mass murderers. Worse yet, the way things are going, it’s only a matter of time until alpha insurgencies like Hezbollah and the Zetas have their own fleets of armed or kamikaze drones.
The sound-bite anti-gun-control argument is, of course, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The counterargument is, “Yeah, but guns sure make it a whole lot easier.” The same applies to drone warfare. It’s suddenly so much easier to pull the trigger, and you’re not putting any of your own people at risk. And so more people die.
But surely sober, thoughtful, serious people make these decisions, you may say, aided by the fabled disposition matrix. If so, there are a few points you need to keep in mind:
We’re already seeing evidence that drone warfare slowly leads to less consideration for civilian lives: the (apparently deliberate) use of the “double tap” strategy, wherein a first missile is followed a few minutes later by another. From a strictly tactical point of view, this probably does kill more of the bad guys…but it also tends to kill rescuers and first responders.
Meanwhile, only 2 percent of the victims of the American drone war — a body count that now far exceeds the number who died in the World Trade Center — were “high-level militants” and hundreds upon hundreds were civilians.
And again, this is only the beginning. That’s what scares me most. Drone wars may seem to those who wage them to be bloodless and clinical — but there’s every reason to believe that they’ll ultimately be far worse and far bloodier than even many of the horrors of the 20th century.
Image: Hunter-killer, The Terminator.