Thursday, May 22, 2014

"Why focus on drone attacks?"

Drones: serving man. (Or . . . ?)

The months of April and May saw a large number of protests against the U.S. program of targeted killing with drones, and progress in challenging that program in Congress.

An interesting question was raised on a listserve:  "Why focus on drone attacks?" The questioner -- a dedicated peace activist with an inquiring mind -- explained that he felt a bit perplexed:

As far as I understand, these drone attacks cause damage similar to that caused by other kinds of weapons – cruise missiles, air-to-surface missiles fired by planes or helicopters, gravity bombs, artillery.

I don’t think that the anti-drone campaign would be pleased if the drone attacks stopped, but the same level of U.S. attacks were carried out by other weapons – say manned flights carrying missiles. Would that be better in some way? If it would be better, I ask you to explain to me how or why it would be better.

Here's how I responded:

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.

I'm curious to know if other people agree with me.  What is your experience? Is the movement against drones helping to build consciousness about the deeper issues of consent?  Or are we being sidetracked by paying too much attention to other aspects of drone warfare?

Please join the conversation.

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