Earlier I wrote The Myth of"Precision Bombing", where I concluded that the accuracy of modern aerial bombardment was primarily of benefit to the bombing power, in that it enormously reduced the number of aircraft and air crew who have to be risked to achieve a particular bombing objective. It doesn't necessarily reduce non-combatant casualties, this is a function of the targeting decisions, which are frequently bad.
On Wednesday, 12/28/2011, we saw this demonstrated in Turkey. According to a Washington Post article published today (link) Turkish F-16 jets, using drone-based intelligence, bombed a group of Kurdish smugglers in the mountains near the Turkish border with Iraq. Kurds are the dominant ethnic group here, and smuggling goods across the border, while illegal, is widely engaged in as a basic way of life, somewhat like moonshining in the United States. Here's a video report:
And here is another more detailed video report from Al-Jazeera English:
For many years a rebel Kurdish movement has been fighting the Turks, the current dominant group in this movement is the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), which the U.S. government, obligingly to the Turks, has classified as a terrorist group. On Wednesday, the Turkish military, mistaking a group of smugglers for insurgents, bombed them and killed 35. Just what led to this so-called "mistake" is unclear, but it is known that the United States recently deployed four Predator drones to Turkey to help put down the rebellion.
Today, 12/31/2011, a local Turkish official, district Governor, Naif Yavuz, showed up to apologize to the local people, who, not having received the memorandum about the wonderful precision of these drone-guided airstrikes, proceeded to beat him up and throw rocks at him. A video showing the other-than-cordial reception accorded to the governor is below:
Meanwhile on 11/25/11, U.S. drone-guided or launched air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in the mountainous Afghan border region of that country. On December 22, 2011 the U.S. government admitted this was a mistake (do ya think?). As a result, Pakistan closed at least some Afghan/Pakistan border to NATO forces and it it has demanded that the U.S. suspend drone operations from a base in Pakistan.
While the Pakistan incident might be attributable to lack of coordination between the various military forces in the vicinity, the Turkish incident clearly was not. And in Pakistan, even before the November 25 attack, the drone attacks in Pakistan were heavily criticized in Pakistan. See this video report for some details:
Thus, one sees weakness of drone and drone-guided warfare, and that is that people won't long tolerate being bombed. In the days of the internet and youtube, massacres (or "mistakes") can't be ignored. If the point of warfare is to reduce the numbers of one's enemies, drone and drone-guided attacks on civilians, whether they are characterized as "mistakes" or not, are counterproductive, as they will actually increase the numbers of enemies.
But I don't expect there will be any drop off in drone warfare. There is actually a Drone Caucus in Congress, and yes, these are the usual lackeys to the war industries. There's a wonderful article on this over at Truthout.org link) where the author writes:
Formed in 2009 by McKeon, the Unmanned Systems Caucus (formerly called the UAV Caucus), aims to “educate members of Congress and the public on the strategic, tactical, and scientific value of unmanned systems; actively support further development and acquisition of more systems, and to more effectively engage the civilian aviation community on unmanned system use and safety.”
The caucus states that it “works with the military, industry, the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and other stakeholders to seek fair and equitable solutions to challenges created by UAV operations in the U.S. National Air Space.”
Members include a collection of border hawks, immigration hardliners and leading congressional voices for the military contracting industry. These include Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), who heads the House Immigration Reform Caucus; Candice Miller (R-Minn.), who heads the Homeland Security subcommittee that reviews the air and marine operations of DHS; Joe Wilson (R-SC); Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.); Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.); Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.); and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.).
The drone caucus works closely with the industry association AUVSI, which, in addition to the drone fair, sponsored a UAV Action Day on Capitol Hill last year.
Imagine that. A "UAV Action Day" on Capitol Hill. Let the bombing begin.