Saturday, May 26, 2012

Drones, Permawar, and the Problem of "Good Jobs"

I've previously pointed to Executive Branch power holders and the financial trading elites as the primary beneficiaries of, and the primary stakeholders in, permawar.

But it is time now to turn to the dirty secret of American life and the primary dilemma of the antiwar movement: the military money that flows to EVERY Congressional district, and in particular the "good jobs" that members of Congress think they are protecting when they vote for ever-higher levels of military spending.

A case in point is the drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) industry. A high-tech company in the San Diego area called General Atomics is having a field day with these new darlings of the military-industrial complex.

Drones are a rapidly expanding part of the way America wages war everywhere -- a "breakthrough" in warfare that poses enormous moral hazard, and one that needs to be stopped dead in its tracks.
Yet with General Atomics creating thousands of jobs -- including many, many very good jobs in engineering -- in Southern California and elsewhere ... what are the chances of getting members of the California congressional delegation to reduce military spending in general and drone appropriations in particular?
I was recently involved in some Twitter exchanges with Dana Rohrabacher, the congressman whose district abuts General Atomics' area, and who is one of the 50+ members of the Unmanned Systems Caucus in Congress.

Rohrabacher is a big fan of drones.

It should be noted that a lot of people thing that drones are just wonderful: they are high-tech and they keep our military personnel out of harm's way.

And many people also have a very cloudy notion of the rights and wrongs of "going after" individuals (and their associated communities) when they are perceived to "threaten" the United States.

Rohrabacher is particularly cavalier, if not obtuse. But it is very difficult to imagine any congressman from California having a terribly insightful relationship to the truth about drones and drone killing, when the "well-being" of so much of his/her district is tied to the drone industry.

My initial impulse was to try to focus entirely on Congressman Rohrabacher and his lack of empathy for the victims of drone killing. Certainly "Fighting for Freedom and Having Fun" would take on a new meaning if Dana Rohrabacher's photograph was paired everywhere it appeared with images of drone victims.

But perhaps it is going to require a much more broad-based discussion -- including a more carefully considered definition of "well-being" (one that embraces moral well-being), and the involvement of the entire community in every congressional district.

More at: Can we stop the DRONES?

Related posts

"Because of the intensified division of labor," the narrator explains, "many technicians and scientists can no longer recognize the contribution the have made to weapons of destruction." "Our department extracts lareic, oleic, and naptha acids . . . . "  "I'm a chemist. What should I do? If I develop a substance, it can be good for humanity . . . ."  "Besides napalm, Dow Chemical produces 800 other products . . . ." Does this familiar to you?

(See American Fire: Still Spreading, Still Inextinguishable)

I was particularly struck by the statement in the video that military aerospace jobs offer a "nice American win/win type of situation." I wonder if the person speaking considered -- for even a moment! -- the victims of U.S. military action.

(See Win/Win? More on the Problem of Permawar and "Good Jobs" in California )

In my opinion, the reason to focus on drones is this: when we focus on drones, the general public is able to "get," to an unusual extent, the degree to which popular consent has been banished from the process of carrying out state violence. (Sure, it was banished long ago, but the absence of a human in the cockpit of a drone suddenly makes a light bulb go off in people's heads.) It takes some prodding, but people can sense that drone use somehow crosses a line. And that opens up the discussion about how our consent has been eliminated from the vast range of US militarism.

(See "Why focus on drone attacks?")

Isn't the real problem that fully half of Boeing's business consists of making and selling war materiel? Is it really necessary to identify the one, or two, or three most egregious weapons that Boeing makes? Do we need to pick and choose?  Isn't the real issue that nice, all-American, fly-the-friendly-skies Boeing is one of the core purveyors of war and misery in the world today, by virtue of its Military Aircraft division? I mean, look at their own sanitized version of what they do -- "Strike, Mobility, Surveillance & Engagement, Unmanned and Missile Systems, Global Support" -- even in their own words its readily apparent that they're peddling poison.

(See The Wrong Labor Struggle at Boeing )