I don’t trust people with drones…

So in my last post, I didn’t really get at why Obama’s use of drones is what make’s supporting him such a bitch. Answering that question is easy if the “double tap” air strikes are official or even unofficial “wink wink nudge nudge” policy. But if they’re not, shouldn’t that assuage my anxiety over whether I’m supporting a war criminal? That’d be nice but it’s just not the case. And I think that’s because my anxiety emerges from what the drones embody rather than the drones themselves.

In prior posts I’ve glorified information technology as not just a field leveler but as the essential tool for revolutionary action. In conversation I’ve equated the ideals of the open source movement to the ideals of the founding fathers. (I know, I know. I hate the term too but I’m using shorthand here. It is a blog after all.) I’ve said that the computer today is the musket of revolutionary times. And if I haven’t said those things overtly (or succinctly as I tend too ramble from time to time), they were certainly implied. I stand by those comparisons. But on the other side of revolutionary potential is the capacity to further oppress and kill.The same advances in technology that have made possible the instantaneous worldwide communication of social media play a crucial role in the efficacy of drone warfare. And as that technology has enabled various citizenry to unite and act in the name of common causes so too does it enable various military to isolate and kill targeted individuals. So big deal, right? Less collateral damage and better results. Doesn’t that make that case for employing drone warfare a moral one?


But at the same time this dynamic fits all too well into a distinctly American mythology of moral liberation. Our cinema offers us heroes and vigilantes freed from moral constraints. Our religion offers us salvation without sacrifice, Christ without a crucifix and inner peace without asceticism. Our free market offers us greater and greater returns with lower and lower risk – at least for those that can afford it. But these things are petty when compared to the technology that offers war without sacrifice – technology that makes saying, “Fuck it. Just bomb ’em” carry so little risk. I mean, the sixteen year old American citizen who was killed two weeks after his father was a terrorist too, right? I’ve said before that I believe technology to be neutral in its determinative capacity and that its results emerge from the institutions and policy surrounding it. But I also know that when handed a shovel I start to dig.

More on this in my next post but it’s getting late and I need to sleep.

On a side note…


Really, Mr. President? Way to reinforce the idea that the only people with something legitimate to say about guns are those that shoot them. Real nice.


3 thoughts on “I don’t trust people with drones…

  1. kate qg

    i posted something else on the your facebook page in regards to a nyt article, but i thought i’d make my argument here. i was a bit surprised by your take on the American mythology point. your argument leans more toward the Puritanical ideal that I don’t usually hear from you, and have in the past spoken against. i.e. i am not entirely sure salvation should require sacrifice or inner peace necessitate asceticism, it seems an awful like “if you work real hard, then good things happen,” which i think we both know is bullshit. i see how it connects to the drone argument but i don’t think it makes it any more or less a moral issue, because the morality of the matter comes down to killing people–people who may or may not be enemies and the collateral damage that will inevitably occur–this is the issue in any war. drones are irresponsible yes, and seemingly make killing easy, but the heart of the matter is murder in the name of the state. historically, this type of murder is what allows states to flourish and well as to dominate. as thinking people in a country that benefits from it, it makes us uncomfortable and uneasy and vaguely guilty–i think these are the emotions that have been channeled into the drone argument on the left, as if by our outrage over this unfair and unjust tactic we make our apathy and complicit support in regards to the wars that started this practice less apparent or less significant. because in the end, supporting the united states government, voting in its elections, participating in its economy, etc is a bitch because the government itself, regardless of who is in charge, engages in war criminal activity to sustain itself. this is not to absolve Obama and it does not absolve us as citizens–we as people created and made this government. but i just feel like drones are not the actual issue here, they instead serve as a target for our impotent frustration with the state and our (justified) guilt and helplessness at the deaths of people supposedly in the name of our security .

  2. jmquealy Post author

    Well, I guess what I was getting at was more the idea that the morality of drone warfare is made murky by blending in with a broader American cultural pattern and less the idea that it is immoral because it shares characteristics with this pattern. So you’re right, it’s not drone warfare’s relationship to these other patterns that add the moral dimension. And yeah, it IS state sponsored murder in the guise of war that does. But what I’m getting at is whether the powers that be have overplayed their hand – whether they’ve too much faith in technology and whether that faith has led them to take indefensible measures (around the number of three thousand+ times). I tend to think that we all default to the institutional realities surrounding us and in the case of the prez, I can’t help but think he’s conflating technological advances with moral imperative – no matter how much agonizing was involved. And you’re definitely onto something when you bring up our desire for security. But my little dude is asking me to take him for a walk through the lobby right now so i’ll have to unpack that one a little later.


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