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The May 10 edition of CBS’ “60 Minutes” featured a segment on the military’s new star: an unmanned reconnaissance and war plane called a Drone. The segment, “Drones: America’s New Air Force”, likely remains available for viewing at http://www.60minutes.com. It is worth watching.
The Drone has those same qualities that used to attract me, as a kid, to the Ray Guns of the science fiction world of Flash Gordon, and the two-way wrist radio of super cop Dick Tracy. Lasers and digital phones are now old news in our society. The $11 million Drone with its $1 million camera is simply the latest rendition, allowing an operator sitting in a windowless high tech building in Nevada to take out bad guys in Afghanistan or other places thousands of miles away.
No more is there any risk to our “side”: someone simply presses a button, and out of existence goes some evil doer or group of evil doers over there. We are safe and in control. We don’t need to see the “whites of their eyes”; indeed, part of the star quality of this weapon is that the victim of it is not even aware that he is even being watched. (I think I can say “he” with a certain amount of confidence.)
There are downsides, of course, like possibly killing innocent civilians, or maybe even blasting out of existence an erroneous target, but that’s small price to pay, or so would say the supporters of this new smart warfare.
But is it so “smart”?
The program drove me to my internet search engine for some very elementary statistics: The United States has 3 million square miles of land surface compared with a world total of 57 million square miles. This translates into the U.S. occupying roughly 5% of the world’s land mass. Similarly, we have roughly 5% of the world’s population. And we’re a very large country.
What are the odds that an ever more sophisticated generation of Drones can successfully patrol the world for us, and rid it of all evil doers. For that matter, what are the odds they could control the evil doers in just our country, or my state, or town, or even neighborhood?
The odds of course is essentially zero, unless some target has been tirelessly tracked for months, and is a creature of habit, never moving, always following the same routine. Of course, a smart potential target blends into the neighborhood as well, putting at risk people who don’t even know he is there.
I think, here, of the lowly cows who used to be in the pasture at my grandparents place in North Dakota. They used to occupy the pasture south and west of the barn, wandering at will throughout the day, except for morning and afternoon when they would march along the proverbial cow path to the barn to be milked. Now, these were creatures of habit, easily predictable targets. How well would the Drone do its job if its target was a single one of those cows, a renegade one, who needed to be taken out? Could it single out its target, and not damage the other cows in its company? Would these other “productive citizen” cows just be considered a dispensable collateral damage?
Ah, high tech weaponry seems so innocuous and effective until you look the tiniest distance beyond it. They are, first of all, like all aggressive weaponry, a waste of natural resource. There is little “productive” that can be said of weaponry: it’s function is to destroy including, in the case of bombs and bullets, itself.
Conversely, the very survival of Humanity, from the basics of family onward, in the most primitive society to the most advanced, is rooted in the business of positive relationships.
The more powerful we became (I speak in the past tense), the less we felt we needed to engage continuously and positively with the world citizens who occupy the rest of the 95% of the planet. Unlike cows (so far as I know), humans whatever their language or culture have a tendency to develop relationships, and to not forget how they were treated.
Without positive relationships, no number of Drones will save or even protect us.