The tragic accidental deaths of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto as a result of a CIA ordered drone strike has sparked an emotional debate over the use of unmanned drones in the war against terror. If you can work your way through the beating of breast and the gnashing of teeth you find an element that questions the humanity of “using robots to target and assassinate suspected terrorist operatives.” Frankly I find the entire conversation stunningly superficial and devoid of reality.
First of all it should be noted that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda and other like terrorist groups that would cause harm to American citizens and our allies. Let me say that in my opinion it is an endless war that we cannot win. The rise of ISIS and a host of other extremist groups from the ashes of Osama bin Laden’s former organization proves the point. But nonetheless we are at war. And even though less than 1% of all Americans have a vested interest in the events occurring throughout the Middle East this war wages on with horrific consequences for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Thousands of innocent lives have been lost in this decade’s long battle but it seems that only when innocent Americans are caught in the cross fire do those otherwise occupied take notice.
I have deep sympathy for the families who lost loved ones in this attack. But with all due respect, the Middle East is a war zone. It is no place for western civilians, particularly Americans who are routinely targeted and kidnapped and/or killed by terrorist operatives. Journalists, humanitarian aid workers and others who chose to risk their lives in these dangerous environs have our respect. But they do so at their own risk. The United States government has gone to heroic efforts to rescue those have fallen captive to our enemies. But the government cannot be held responsible for the lives of those who knowingly put themselves in harm’s way.
The American people have made it clear that they have no appetite for another ground war in the Middle East. Boots on the ground is a nonstarter. The Obama administration has listened and chosen to make use of unmanned drones as a means to eliminate enemy combatants without risking the lives of military personnel. A drone is a weapon. It is piloted by military personnel housed in the safety of a bunker in Nevada. It is no different than a multi-million dollar fighter jet piloted by an experienced aviator or a guided missile fired from a submarine or battleship miles off shore. It is a weapon designed to kill the enemy. That’s what happens in war. People die.
The Obama administration has been conducting fighter bombing missions against ISIS targets for months. I can assure you that even though these “precision” attacks are designed to destroy enemy combatants and their strongholds innocent lives have been lost. But these attacks offer a sanitized method of war that the American people seem willing to accept. The resulting collateral damage raise barely an eyebrow. But let an unmanned drone cause the same inadvertent, horrific result and visions of the Terminator give rise to questioning our humanity. Killing the enemy with jets and bombs is accepted. Killing the enemy with drones offends ones sensibilities. The distinction is ludicrous.
War is horrible and messy. Innocent people die. Stopping the drone attacks won’t stop the carnage. Only stopping the war can do that.