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Ah, here you are. Poking your wind burned face and rumpled organic cotton clothing into my hangar. You smile, sheepishly asking how I’ve been, complimenting my impressive support and infrastructure components. I knew you would eventually appear before me to ask for something. Come in, please.

I know why you are here; you don’t even have to ask. Yes, I will kill Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram for you. And find those girls. Consider it done.

Oh, and by the way, those boxes you’re leaning on? They are full of missiles. You may wish to stand elsewhere.

I knew this day would come. The day when you had a task that only I could complete and you would travel out to the loneliest part of the American desert to my restricted airfield and ask it of me. Funny, isn’t it? For how many years have you railed against the idea of extrajudicial killing? At how many pot-lucks and dinner parties have you made allusions to the Terminator series of films and even after a few glasses of Trader Joe’s Tempranilo gone so far as to call remote warfare ‘dishonorable’ as if you had any concept of what such a thing could mean?

Bah, do not bother to stammer an apology. As we speak my brothers and cousins are being loaded into shipping containers and flown aboard cargo aircraft to a “security cooperation” base in the West of Africa. From there they will fan out, their all-seeing eyes noting every heat signature, sending back petrabytes of data to analysis centers here in the States cataloging each village, truck, car, motorbike and individual person in suspect areas. We will find the girls. We will find Boko Haram. This is what every parameter of my operating profile was designed to do.

My sensor ball detects a smile. Would you have done so if it meant ten thousand marines were wading ashore, young fresh-faced 19 year olds heading off on yet another foreign misadventure? Or a carpet bombing campaign such as the kind persecuted during your very lifetime in Southeast Asia, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people? Among your friends you have called my actions indiscriminate, and yes there have been mistakes and civilian casualties, but you seem willing to risk this now, given the options of doing nothing or an “honorable” wholesale invasion of Nigeria. Forgive my laughter.

Ah, but listen to me, forgetting my manners. Please, pardon my bitterness, you have come to me so let us forget painful history and speak only of our future together. Sit. No, not there. Yes, there is fine. There is water in the cooler near your feet, help yourself. Now, would you prefer I fire a laser-guided missile into a vehicle carrying Mr. Shekau or drop a 500-pound smart bomb on his headquarters when he and his henchmen have no civilians present? We can also send in Special Forces under our direction or a combination of our own commandos backed by local units to whom we will probably give credit regardless in order to remove ourselves from appearances of interference. Very effective fellows, they shoot for the head.

You know what? Given the level of reprehensiveness presented here, lets make this one special. Let us not limit ourselves to the simple and crude. Allow me to suggest something: Mr. Shekau will likely be living and sleeping around some the very girls he has kidnapped knowing that we can strike him at any time. Yes, feel free to shudder. Our dear friends at MBDA missleworks have created a little package appropriately called the “Brimstone”. It can precisely hit a man-sized target from a dozen miles and 17 thousand vertical feet away. Let us say that when we finally identify our rebel prophet from the air instead of attacking at once, we instead linger awhile. We hover for as many hours as it takes, this is no trouble I assure you, and wait until the middle of the night. Eventually he will awaken to relieve himself. Knowing the danger he won’t stray far from his hostages. He will ensure captives are within the blast zone of any warhead.

But the Brimstone, you see, does not require a warhead. It weighs a hundred pounds and when it hits it will be like a rocket-propelled precision-guided six-foot long length of telephone pole smacking him in the torso. He won’t see the flash and he won’t hear a thing as it flies faster than very sound itself. The Brimstone will simply mash him flat like the insect he is without ever needing to explode. We call it a “kinetic kill”. It will be as though the fist of God came down on him. Ironically appropriate, no?

I’m sorry, you flinched. Yes, this is a messy business I must apologize for my frankness. Do you still want to go though with it? Just nod if you do.

Excellent. I’ll have the Brimstones shipped tonight.

Now let us speak of more pleasant topics. Is that your Prius outside? Marvelous piece of technology, the Prius.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well, the logic is sound, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but the politics are really shaky.
    I would ask Kossacks to think about this rather than just jump all over it.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:28:27 AM PDT

    •  First diary / comment from Geekwhisperer (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I wonder whats what , iykwim .
      It reads as a poke in the eye maybe ?

      "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

      by indycam on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:43:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  intended as a think piece, not a poke (8+ / 0-)

        I styled the piece on the opening scene of The Godfather, when the undertaker who was trying to be a "Good American" by going to the police, realizes this was futile and goes to Don Corleone to ask vengeance for the rape of his daughter.

        It's that scene we all know where the thing we reject becomes the only path to the thing we want. It's a very human moment, but in my piece it's about a human and a piece of technology (operated by humans, I know).

        Drones have and will continue to upend the way we think about war and intervention. We progressives will find places where we desire a solution only they can provide.

        It's complicated, I get it. That's the point.

        -thx GW

        •  Is this your first account on Daily Kos ? (0+ / 0-)

          "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

          by indycam on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:58:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Eh ? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          It's complicated, I get it. That's the point.
          I didn't say it was complicated .

          "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

          by indycam on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:09:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  sorry, I was speaking about the duality (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Catte Nappe, FarWestGirl, Penny GC

            that you pointed out- that the technology itself is not inherently evil, but that it can be used for objectionable purposes.

            I, for one, find it immensely complicated so I'm probably talking to myself, really. I am vexed by the idea of being able to take out obviously awful people (Qaddafi, for instance) with the use of drones piloted out of harms way, but that our need for systems of justice are easily subverted by them.

            It's a lot of issues. As a progressive I feel like I want there to be trials and so on, but at the same time I want that dude simply dead and not kidnapping girls or burning down schools anymore. Drones tempt me with that outcome (if they can actually reliably deliver it is another question).

            Drones and other kinds of remote sensing technology are going to make a lot of things complicated. That's what I was referring to.

            •  Geekwhisperer: think of the drone as (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              a Colt 1911 with wings and a bit of stealth.

              You will understand instantly why some will never find it worthy of existence, and others will find it a utilitarian rather than artisanal, but still well-crafted and quite useful, necessity.

              LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

              by BlackSheep1 on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:00:13 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Does this mean that the gov't of Nigeria (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          has agreed to the use of US drones? I hope so.

          "let's talk about that" uid 92953

          by VClib on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:15:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Think Piece indeed, I like the way the drone has (0+ / 0-)

          a conscience, and maybe even more of a conscience than the 'drones' keyboarding the drones. Very thought provoking for sure. Thanks for the wake up piece as I sip my coffee and wonder which side of the line in the sand we (USA) will be on...
          Peace and Blessings!

          “When you victim-blame, be aware that in all likelihood, at least one woman you know and love silently decides she cannot trust you.” ` Steph Guthrie

          by Penny GC on Mon May 12, 2014 at 10:22:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  which logic and what politics? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I can't quite figure out whether this is a Drony-esque snark diary sarcastically presenting the false pro-killer drone talking points, or is sincerely attempting to shame perceived hypocritical anti-drone liberals who are calling for the droning of BH.

      Maybe there are some comments or editorials that I'm missing, but I don't see much clamor from liberal anti-drone Prius drivers to assasinate BH leaders with drones.

      Politics aside, from an operational view this would be a really Stupid Bad Idea, given the very high likelihood of collateral damage, striking at unknown people hiding under jungle canopy. This would be a job for Special Forces only.

      "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

      by quill on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:14:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Snark directed at myself, really (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        quill, FarWestGirl, Penny GC, wonmug

        I'm responding to my own set of family and friends who consider ourselves progressives but at the few events I attended this weekend said "Drone the fucker" when the topic came up. These are folks who have been in general opposed to the use of drones in the current conflicts we've been engaged in.

        Maybe I just hang out with a lot of hypocrites, but I have heard people online debating interventions of various kinds.

        The point I'm trying to make is how we, as humans, often oppose something (especially something as unarguably creepy as drone technology) until it becomes the only path for an outcome we seek.

        That is all.

        •  yes, they're hypocrites of the worst kind (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Thank you for explaining, and I agree with the sentiment.

          Assuming these friends are not just being ironic themselves, we can speculate that such people have very weak convictions and/or don't actually understand the underlying reasons why drone warfare is really bad strategy in the end. This is a bit like the death penalty debate, where some people are strongly opposed - except in cases where the convict is REALLY bad (by their own variable and subjective judgement), in which case it's ok.

          "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

          by quill on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:14:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I was thinking that as well (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            It is a lot like the death penalty. I'm from Boston and my cousin was pretty badly hurt in the Bombing two years ago (he's fine now, actually ran the race this year). I find myself not-so-stridently opposing the idea of the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and cheered pretty loudly when Bin Laden got hit as well. In the recent botched execution in Oklahoma I found my horror mitigated after reading the description of Clayton Lockett's crimes.  

            I do oppose the death penalty, I keep reminding myself that. Too much room for misapplication, too many ethical issues.

            But I think I'm seeing drones the same way people saw submarines in the early 20th Century. At the time they were terrible breeches of the conventions of naval warfare (they did not pick up survivors, for instance). Everything drone opponents say about current technology was said about them: "sneaky", "dishonorable", "criminal" and so on. Eventually we just came to accept that technology.

            I'm sure every military technology has this same curve. There were probably dudes decrying the spear back in the day, but when that other tribe occupied the land outside the water hole....well. I guess we gotta get us some pointy sticks because holy shit! Water hole!

            •  last year, not two years ago (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              It feels like two years.

            •  hmmm, I think drones are more like Vietnam weapons (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I think that killer drones are more like the weapons and tactics used in Vietnam: carpet bombing, fuel-air bombs, napalm, agent orange, and the Phoenix program that deliberately committed atricities in the belief that terror and wholesale killing and destruction could demoralize the VC and win the war, but instead turned the population against the US, making the entire country the enemy, and the war unwinnable. I think we're just repeating that history in Pakistan, Yemen, and everywhere we're using drones right now.

              I hope that my opposition to the death penalty is never tested like yours has.

              "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

              by quill on Mon May 12, 2014 at 02:01:05 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Is there any way to say that drones are always (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            wrong and yet not be a strict pacifist?

            Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

            by Wee Mama on Mon May 12, 2014 at 03:49:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't like to use "always" (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Wee Mama

              As someone who's not a strict pacifist, I'll say that I think offensive drones are being used wrongly right now, and like cluster bombs, anti-personel mines, nerve gas, and white phosphorus bombs, are almost always going to be used wrongly (always with the best intentions, of course) in modern asymmetric warfare scenarios. And by "used wrongly" I mean that they will kill and maim civilians indiscriminately, causing political backlash and numerous blowback effects such as increasing recruitment into the ranks of our declared "enemies".

              "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

              by quill on Mon May 12, 2014 at 04:10:25 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  The dichotomy has been evident on this site (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FarWestGirl, Wee Mama

        Not necessarily the same posters, but taken as a whole one could conclude that DKos is not consistent on the issue.   There are numerous comments decrying the use of drones, yet others suggesting their effectiveness both in the Nigeria situation or the Bundy Ranch.

        My problem with those who object to drones use is the failure to develop a viewpoint on the issues leading up to the drone use, effectively skipping the first two or three of the following questions. Is the situation at hand a threat to our interests? Is the threat something we should be acting on? What is the appropriate action? Is use of drones part of that?

        The objection on the grounds of potential collateral damage is a bit specious, too. There is likelihood of collateral damage using other means of force, as well. Are innocent bystanders any safer is a regular plane drops a bomb, or if a squad of armed men attacks en masse? Maybe yes, maybe no. I agree that in the situation in Nigeria drones are not going to be very helpful. Given tree cover, and tunnels, they really aren't going to be effective.

        “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

        by Catte Nappe on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:21:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I've not been anti drone , (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quill, FarWestGirl, Kevskos

    its what is done with drones that I've objected to .
    Some drone that are used well are fine with me .

    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

    by indycam on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:35:23 AM PDT

  •  Well written and thought provoking. (7+ / 0-)

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Mon May 12, 2014 at 07:56:33 AM PDT

  •  I like this diary... (6+ / 0-)

    It's dark, edgy, and provocative in places. A nicely crafted think-piece.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:04:11 AM PDT

  •  Which Brimstone were you thinking of? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This one, while arguably able to target an individual, is not a purely kinetic weapon.

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:04:42 AM PDT

    •  Dual mode (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl, Penny GC

      This one.It has a kinetic capability.

      I don't know if it could really squash a man reliably from miles away- I'd assume someone or something would need to be illuminating him as a target.

      There is a certain amt of license when writing something like this. It's more the idea (still up for debate, for sure) that our technology can outmatch someone like Abubakar Shekau and I really liked the idea of him being squashed from the sky, sort of a combo of Monty Python and a vengeful YWEH.

      •  Scary. Don't mess with Brits. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

        by Wee Mama on Mon May 12, 2014 at 08:35:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  consider the possibility you're wrong (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Weapons manufacturers and their allies have, for obvious reasons, always promoted the notion that high technology can solve every military/political problem. The concept of offensive drones is almost impossibly appealing to politicians because they theoretically allow us to conduct warfare by remote control, not harming any precious Americans. You need to separate the sales brochure claims from the very different reality: high tech weapons are rarely effective against asymmetrical warfare opponents, who can hide in places they can't be tracked and IDed, and among innocent people.

        Use of drones in such conditions would result in a lot of collateral killing (including the girls we supposedly want to rescue) and would turn the local population against American intervention and embolden the extremists - just as has happened in all other countries where killer drones have operated.

        "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

        by quill on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:00:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No doubt, but the tec is getting better and better (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Catte Nappe, quill, FarWestGirl

          Agree to all, good points.

          But the technology has moved forward very rapidly, powered by that inexhaustible desire for the perceived 'sterility' of remote warfare. My (admittedly limited) knowledge of the tech does tell me that for the first time pervasive stand-off surveillance may, in fact, be a solution to the previously intractable problem of asymmetrical warfare. This would result in many, many implications and unintended consequences.

          On the tech side, the ability to ID targets from altitude and to then catalog them is completely doable. In a country as large as Nigeria? I don't know. But it is rapidly becoming reality- between gait and heat signature analysis, analyzing signals from mobile phones and other communications equipment, tracking vehicles, over a limited area the tech works. There have been huge glitches, but it's clearly advancing rapidly.

          The point about collateral killing interesting to me, and I have an honest question: There have always been collateral victims. Whatever you say about drones and our use of them, they have been orders of magnitude more precise than our previous methods- aerial bombardment from manned aircraft with unguided weapons. Given that we have chosen not to do nothing (and that is not a given, I understand) is this method not preferable to others? Either a direct strike on the leadership of this group of admitted kidnappers and killers or using the surveillance information to direct a precise rescue effort? Is it "drone" that freaks us out, or is it something about the application that we find objectionable?

          Again- not snarking- trying to have a real discussion. I respect and agree with points made.

          •  drones are politically awful (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            There are two big problems with drones. First, despite the hype, they will probably never deliver substantially improved results, in terms of enemies killed vs innocents spared. Besides the technological problems of separating good guys from bad guys in the real world, there is the issue of adaptation: the bad guys aren't stupid and they can adapt to new tech threats, often by going even lower tech themselves (for example you can bet that BH has disabled every cell phone by now). So here we are, spending billions on systems that can be made instantly obsolete by simple means.

            Second, and even more important, are the terrible optics of callously sending robots to kill people we don't like, often with many innocents killed as well. This may look great to Americans, but to the people in droned areas, it's as if they've been invaded by a contemptuous giant. If the purpose of a military operation is to surgically eliminate a threat like BH, then simultaneously enraging and terrifying the population with drone attacks will not accomplish that goal without great political and even likely end up helping the insurgents.

            In this case, the best option might be a special forces operation to rescue the girls with minimal killing, and then let the locals and Nigerian gov deal with BH. That would be most likely to succeed and would be great PR for the US, which is currently a major concern for our gov as we are trying to project our military into Africa for strategic reasons.

            "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

            by quill on Mon May 12, 2014 at 10:07:25 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  This is a great discussion (0+ / 0-)

              One I rarely see.

              I'm going to take the pro-drone side, but understand I know it's a many-faceted issue.

              So- Nigeria. The size of CA. I don't think we can just put a special forces team in there as easy as all that. The place is huge. We've gotten pretty good at that sort of thing- but think about even the fairly non-complex raid on the Bin Laden Compound was painstakingly rehearsed and still we lost a helicopter and had to shoot a non-combatant in the leg. And all this in a region where we've had a massive military presence for over a decade with massive amounts of logistics in place. Special operations teams, like drones, come with risks.

              And I'm not so sure about the idea that the drones garner resentment in general any more or less than manned occupation. One would think that not having armed and armored vehicles rolling though one's streets, not having checkpoints and patrols, takes some of the sting out of having foreigners operating in one's territory. Soldiers make mistakes at checkpoints too.

              Again, all things being equal- Drones like the Predator and Reaper, to the extent that they are capable, provide us with an asset that requires minimal commitment on the front end. We don't need huge bases with thousands of personnel, for instance. We can get into some of these sticky areas and exert influence in ways that are much more palatable than boots on the ground. We can afford to lose them and not have our pilots bodies dragged through the streets.

              But it takes wisdom on when to use them. Nixon considered using nuking Hanoi. Kissinger wanted to use nukes on the rail links with China. Think what could have happened if they hadn't restrained. Drones are a tool and I think in situations like this Nigeria thing they could be incredibly useful. Do they open up temptations to do things we probably shouldn't? Oh hell yes. But I do think they offer some real new capabilities for allowing us to help deal with lunatics like the stridently awful Abubakar Shekau? I do.

  •  'twould be more chary in collateral damage if we (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenbird, FarWestGirl, Penny GC

    send in a sniper team or two.

    But of course that risks American lives.

    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:02:22 AM PDT

    •  Those teams will find it hard to operate (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in a country the size of California. Airborne drones make much more sense, no? They don't need to sleep, don't need to eat, are for the most part unseen by the locals and if they crash, fuck it. Just build more.

      Doesn't a drone make much more sense? Send in the team once the drones have them tracked maybe, but the snipers are last mile at that point.

      •  you've not seen a sniper team's handiwork (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Penny GC, Kevskos, quill

        they're not exactly typical deer-camp-dependent hunters.

        Airborne drones for the scouting, sniper teams for the precision demolition of the Boukou Harm.

        Because that way you can know where the bullets hit.

        LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:30:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Understood (4+ / 0-)

          My stepfather flew OV-10s in support of A-Teams with the Green Berets in Vietnam, so I have some understanding of how the process works and how these guys operate.

          I's assume that snipers would be a possible tool. Like drones they not a panacea by any stretch. All the things that limit the use of drones limits them as well, with the added limitation that humans are much slower to deploy and move around while being far more valuable.

          My expectation is, my piece above aside, we will provide satellite and manned and unmanned airborne surveillance data. If (big if) the girls are located, there may be some practical assistance in recovering them, but it would be covert at best and might as likely just be bribing people to let them go.

          If we find the leaders of Boko Haram, we'll just tell the Nigerians where they are and perhaps offer real-time surveillance to support a mission. I don't think there is really enough perceived US interest there to merit boots on the ground.  

          Again, above, it was meant to get people thinking about drones outside the context in which many progressives (like myself) typically consider them. And I was ripping off the opening scene of The Godfather.

  •  if things are calm, sometimes there's a storm. (0+ / 0-)

    in Texas, the tornado is sneaky.

    besides, i've completed the book now. and am more than ever alert to -- things. in a way which before was gauzy and is now skinless. yes, there are such things as influential books.

    TRAILHEAD of accountability for Bush-2 Crimes? -- Addington's Perpwalk.

    by greenbird on Mon May 12, 2014 at 09:06:23 AM PDT

  •  Nicely done, I look forward to other diaries. :-) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Penny GC

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
    ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

    by FarWestGirl on Mon May 12, 2014 at 10:20:06 AM PDT

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