The Panopticon State
As Mark Steyn writes, "Where the government can see, it can send a drone:"
I’m a long, long way from Rand Paul’s view of the world (I’m basically a 19th-century imperialist a hundred years past sell-by date), but I’m far from sanguine about America’s drone fever. For all its advantages to this administration — no awkward prisoners to be housed at Gitmo, no military casualties for the evening news — the unheard, unseen, unmanned drone raining down death from the skies confirms for those on the receiving end al-Qaeda’s critique of its enemies: As they see it, we have the best technology and the worst will; we choose aerial assassination and its attendant collateral damage because we are risk-averse, and so remote, antiseptic, long-distance, computer-programmed warfare is all that we can bear. Our technological strength betrays our psychological weakness.
And in a certain sense they’re right: Afghanistan is winding down, at best, to join the long list of America’s unwon wars, in which, 48 hours after departure, there will be no trace that we were ever there. The guys with drones are losing to the guys with fertilizer — because they mean it, and we don’t. The drone thus has come to symbolize the central defect of America’s “war on terror,” which is that it’s all means and no end: We’re fighting the symptoms rather than the cause.
For a war without strategic purpose, a drone’ll do. Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen born in New Mexico, was whacked by a Predator not on a battlefield but after an apparently convivial lunch at a favorite Yemeni restaurant. Two weeks later, al-Awlaki’s son Abdulrahman was dining on the terrace of another local eatery when the CIA served him the old Hellfire Special and he wound up splattered all over the patio. Abdulrahman was 16, and born in Denver. As I understand it, the Supreme Court has ruled that American minors, convicted of the most heinous crimes, cannot be executed. But you can gaily atomize them halfway round the planet. My brief experience of Yemeni restaurants was not a happy one but, granted that, I couldn’t honestly say they met any recognized definition of a “battlefield.”
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(Illustration above by Shutterstock.com.)