Tag Archives: Fear

Fear and drone warfare

I think its hard for the average American citizen to understand the incredibly warping presence of America’s global reach on the lives of those who are not part of our sprawling empire and its alliances. We talk about drones and we ask ourselves about the President’s rights to perform extrajudicial killings. We worry about drones being used in American airspace to spy on citizens, we worry, if we’re not monsters, about the innocents killed by rockets meant for terrorist leaders, but we pay far too little attention to the psychological burden we are placing on the citizens of other nations.

Please consider:

1. America can deal death from the sky suddenly and without warning.

2. America can bypass the military defenses of a player as militarily well equipped as Pakistan.

We have crossed from being a country who can devastate whole cities from afar, from a country who’s military can rapidly deploy to any point on earth, to a country who can, by surprise, deal death to individuals with the press of a button from the far side of the world. Drone warfare, by its very nature, has created a deep psychological terror in the lives of innocents around the world who know all to well that America answers to no one. If America’s drones destroy your family’s home because it mistook it for the home of the terrorist next door, there is no means for redress, no way to relieve the grief because there is no plausible effective response.

It is one thing to fear another country’s ability to send in an army, there’s precedent for dealing with armies, effective tactics (for better or worse) for civilian populations to strike back against their invaders. Even in the fearful days of the Cold War there was the knowledge that even if the worst came to the worst, one’s enemies would also pay the ultimate price. Now there is no mutually assured destruction, just a sky full of faceless potential killers. America has shown a terrifying willingness to send its drones into other nation’s sovereign territory to achieve its murderous goals. I’ll admit, sometimes I approve of those goals, sometimes the villains need to be removed for the world to move forward, but not like this. This isn’t assassination, its not clean. Rockets are not sniper’s bullets, they tend to do a lot of collateral damage. Innocent people die so we can kill a villain without risking an American life, that is not an acceptable outcome, that is not justice, it does not create safety.

Drones have made killing too easy, too distant. Yes, its wonderful as an American to know that we’re risking expensive aircraft instead of American lives, I’ll spend dollars over lives any day, but on the other hand, that lack of risk has created a horrifying culture of collateral damage just being the accepted cost of drone warfare. It is one thing to make the world hate you, it is another to make the world fear you. In my experiences travelling the world I have found that most people just want to be left alone to get on with their lives. They want their government not to create undue burdens on them and to be left alone to get on with living. Even if they hate their government, or the government of the nation next door, most people will never raise a finger to do anything but talk some smack and rant about how things never get better for the little guy. Despite their discontent, most people are happy to just complain and keep farming, or making widgets, or creating complex banking derivatives to screw their fellow citizens with. That changes when you introduce fear. Fear is a game changer.

There is a big difference between hating a distant nation who you fear might one day bomb your capital and military installations due to disagreements on policies you don’t care about between your nations’ leaders and knowing that enemy nation has flying death machines that can bypass all of your country’s military defenses to drop a rocket on your house because a General 7,000 miles away took your joking comments about hating selfish consumerism a little too seriously.

America can deal death from the sky. Think about that. Think about sitting in a remote village in Afghanistan and hearing the whine of drone aircraft overhead, who will die today? The militant leader? His wife? The neighbor’s children who don’t give a damn about politics or even know where America is? They know we can do it. They know their will be no negative consequences too America, we’ll just label everyone in the area a militant posthumously as needed. Because we can, because its easy, because we don’t need to spend American lives, we use our drones. The price now appears to just be dollars: If our drone is shot down it just means another hit to taxpayers and a pressing need to step up R&D of the next drone generation, but there’s a lot more to the picture. People will live in hatred, but they will not live in fear, the tension created by a state of constant fear is too much, the dam will burst. We are creating lifelong enemies with every rocket we fire.

Fear is a great motivator, it will motivate the world to push back against America in the ways they still can affect. When people cannot reach the military of the nation forcing them into a constant sense of fear of death from above they will reach its surrogates instead. They will attack American’s overseas, they will attack supply lines, they will destroy America’s interests abroad because we will leave them with no other means of lashing back against the reality we have inflicted on them. The reality where America is a heavy-handed god. The reality where America’s reach is everywhere. The reality where America has proven that it will kill innocents to get an actual target. A reality of constant collateral damage being an accepted and normative aspect of modern drone warfare that America’s citizens don’t even deign to notice.

Every missile we fire is a poison, it leeches into the land, into the local population, and turns them against America and its interests forever. The problem at home is that America is still a nation full of conservative minds that think fear is a good disciplinary tool, that people can just be terrified into submission forever. Fear can be used to keep people from rebelling; fear of death, fear of torture, fear of ones loved ones being harmed are all powerful motivators but even fear has its breaking point. America’s drones would be amazing as a deterrent threat “We can reach you anywhere”, the problem is we’re using them as a proactive threat. We have unleashed our flying dogs of war and they are raining death and fear across the world. The fear of death from the sky is real to far too many people already. The fear of what America can and is doing to them will eventually outweigh their fear of what America COULD do to them. Once we’re doing the worst already there is nothing left to fear, and thus no reason not to act against us. The world is learning that not only can we reach whomever we please, but that we will, and consequences be damned.

When our technology suddenly allows death to be dealt by surprise to anyone we consider an enemy it demands a change in our thinking. Drones are an amazing tool for commanding fear around the world, but, like the nuclear bomb, actually using it can only lead to extreme fear and revulsion. Strategically, drone use should be rare, the last resort for America to get its revenge on an enemy who has directly harmed its interests and who cannot be reached through any other legal means. Instead, we are using drones for every enemy because its easy. We are spending the world’s capacity for fear at too rapid a rate, people will tolerate a little fear, but if you make death from the sky a normal thing then the regular little guy will begin to fear it instead of the enemy who should.

My proposal?

Use drones only to spy or to reach high profile targets. Raining death from the sky around the world to get small time players just breeds fear and resentment. Its America’s usual short term thinking though, demand immediate results now and the bill later.

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Constitutional Crisis

I think the time has come to talk about the larger issue the Occupy movement has revealed: Americans do not have the rights they believe they do.

The Occupy movement has many detractors. They claim the movement is disorganized. They claim the movement is leaderless (As if this is an issue. Crowd Sourced Leadership is a new concept, and scary for those used to clear directions, but it does seem to function.) They claim the movement is lazy, simply refusing to get real jobs. Ok, lets for a moment pretend that the people who believe these things are right. Lets pretend the Occupy movement are all a bunch of unwashed, lazy students protesting against a financial system which will never change because profits are too powerful a motivator. Let us pretend all of these things are true, because for the moment they do not matter; I am not interested in talking about the Occupy movement at the moment, but rather about the American Government and their reaction to it. For the purposes of this discussion it doesn’t matter if to you the Occupiers are Smelly Students or Radical Revolutionaries because the response to the movement is what you should be paying attention to, because that response will teach you a lot about your country.

Freedoms are complicated. When you grant a freedom (and as always I am wary of the concept that anyone should have the power to give or take freedoms, but I digress) many problems will always arise as a result. When you give people Freedom of Speech it means that you will have to listen to the lunatics alongside the loyal patriots. When you give people Freedom of Assembly it means that they will sometimes choose to assemble in inconvenient places and make a nuisance of themselves. When you grant people the freedom to be free from undue search and seizure it means that, yes, citizens COULD be walking around with backpacks full of drugs or weapons and there’s nothing you can do about it until you have proof. When you grant people the right to bear arms they may bring those arms to places that make you uncomfortable like bars or schools. When you grant the freedom to due process it means you may have to let people you know are guilty go because you have no proof. These costs may seem high to those tasked with protecting freedom, or even to those with the far simpler task of protecting people, but they are the cost of living in a free country.

Living in a free country means that sometimes the bad guy will win because the laws to stop him haven’t been written yet. Living in a free country means letting hate-mongers protest at funerals, not because their doing so is right, but because protecting their right to do so insures that you will still have the same rights tomorrow. Living in a free country means living in a complicated country and having to constantly analyse how you feel about the actions of others. Living in a free country means being angry a lot that others are using their rights in really stupid ways. Or annoying ways, like holding a huge protest right outside your apartment building. Living in a free country means you have to constantly think and constantly  deal with people doing things YOU DO NOT LIKE. That is the price of freedom, and it may seem expensive, but it has nothing on the price of tyranny. You haven’t seen that bill yet, but it has a lot of zeros and a lot of graves.

What the Occupy movement has done, if you’ve been paying attention on the right channels – which is to say not the ones you get on your TV -is revealed how little the Constitution means these days. The complications of freedom are being thrown out in exchange for laws which make things easier for the authorities and easier for businesses but cost the people everything. I’m not going to deny that having a protest right outside may not be so hot for a retail business, and that if I were the manager of that business I would be furious, but the needs of a small number of businesses to make a profit does not and should not rival the right of the people to freely assemble. The first amendment has been bypassed again and again in NYC by Police Officers blocking media access to protests or to arrest scenes. The first amendment has been just straight trampled when it comes to the right to peaceably assemble.

Lets talk about that right for a moment, the Right to Assemble and Petition the Government, a key clause of the first amendment. Americans need to wake up and realize that if the local or federal authorities can shut down a protest, yes, even a protest full of dirty, smelly, lazy hippes (we’re pretending here remember), then THEY THEMSELVES DO NOT ACTUALLY HAVE FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY. The right functionally does not exist. Local authorities are in direct violation of the United States Constitution when they clear out peaceful protests. The First Amendment doesn’t have in it, anywhere that I can find, the note: *As long as said assembly has filed the right paperwork, been approved in triplicate, and does not last for more than a few hours. The first amendment grants the right to assemble, not the right for people you agree with to assemble at times you like, the right for anyone to assemble with anyone else whenever they want. Local governments have stomped all over that right, and love or hate the Occupy protesters if you are an American you should be angry. Right now one of the laws of our land is on the books and being ignored blatantly and repeatedly without action or intervention from the Federal Government or Courts. That should make you angry and afraid.

If you do not agree that people should have the right to free speech, that’s fine, we have a constitutional amendment process by which you can seek to remove it as a law. Thats one of the great parts about the constitution, it planned for the needs of the people to protest abuses of authority and to demand change. If you disagree with freedom of speech there is a legal process by which you may seek to take it away, and that’s all well and good, if that’s what the American people want we can all vote to have it that way. What should frighten you and make you angry is that one of the Constitutional Amendments is being ignored. Not opposed, ignored. When the government is free to ignore its own laws you are no longer living in a Democracy. When the leadership of the nation will not speak out to protest the abuses of the Constitution you should be afraid. That, that is true Tyranny. Not the men who say “I am in charge” and then shoot you for disobeying them, those people are just run-of-the-mill jerks, but men who will tell you the law is one thing while enforcing another, those are men to fear and loathe.

You should be angry regardless of how you feel about Occupy Wall Street because the American government is letting its citizens know, loud and clear, that it has no plans to enforce or obey the Constitution, and that means the law is now what they say the law is in any given moment.

I think its time for a new political party: The Constitution Party. A party which goes to Washington with the same blood lust the Tea Party had for taxes but directed at guaranteeing freedoms. Not with making people use their freedoms a certain way, not with making people follow a particular moral code, but with making sure people have the freedoms the constitution guarantees, with rescinding any and all laws that violate these freedoms, and with educating Americans that freedom is complex. I confess, in my dream world this party would also be pro-people and anti-big-business, it would insist on campaign finance reform, it would insist on reinstituting Glass-Stegall to make sure American’s are free to live their lives without banks suddenly dropping their overdue gambling bills on them, but lets start small, lets start with a political party that goes to Washington to insist on the freedoms we already allegedly have.

Demand Democracy. Insist on the Constitution.

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