Drone Hero Flip Flop

That was fast.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) raised more than a few eyebrows when he suggested earlier this week on Fox News Business that the U.S. government should be able to employ drones against the nation’s criminals, in particular a hypothetical armed liquor store robber.

Haha. So when a (totes white) guy robs a 40, dr0nz him. But not… When…

I'm so old…

… I can remember when a US senator filibustered a presidential appointment over the fear that a terrorist it was United States citizen would be struck with a drone. We saw it this week that that was not necessary. Yet nobody brought up that whole fake issue again.

Once again, the media demonstrates that there is absolutely zero penalty for not only being wrong but being wrong intentionally.

Josh starts to get it…

El Josh:

Really, wholly apart from any constitutional or legal issue, why would the US government use a drone to attack a suspected terrorist in the US — as opposed to arresting them or in a more extreme situation attacking them in their compound/house like the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department did with Chris Dorner last month. And if things really got totally out of hand, why not a conventional bomber or fighter jet since there’s no anti-aircraft capacity in the US that the US military or US government doesn’t control?

A real question is whether police and SWAT teams should use militarized tactics in raids within the US. That’s a real question. Whether we think drone attacks inside the US are alright or not is a silly one.

The whole thing confirms my belief that in most cases the ‘drone issue’ is a distraction from actual civil liberties or war powers questions.

No shit, Sherlock.


I believe our “moral compass” is an important element of our humanity and sometimes it is difficult or even impossible to reduce it to reason. But what are not, and should not be, without much more study and research to put meat on the bones, part of the policy-making process is our gut-feeling or Philosophy 101 thought experiments.

The “Trolley Problem” is something that ethicists like to toy with. And here’s an NPR writer on it:

Consider a 2009 study by Harvard psychology professor Joshua Greene and colleagues. The researchers presented participants with versions of “trolley problems,” thought experiments with roots in moral philosophy that have taken on new life in psychology experiments.

In the two trolley problems we’ll consider, a regular guy (Joe) observes the following situation: an empty, runaway trolley car is speeding down the tracks toward five workmen on the tracks ahead. If nothing is done, all five of them face certain death.

There happens to be a sixth workman with a heavy backpack standing next to Joe on a footbridge above the tracks. If the sixth workman were on the track instead of above it, the combined weight of his body plus the backpack would be enough to halt the empty trolley car, saving the five men. Unfortunately, it would lead to the certain death of the man with the backpack.

(Joe, our bystander, doesn’t weigh enough to stop the trolley car were he the one on the track. And yes, this is all terribly unrealistic, but participants are told that this is exactly what would happen and that Joe knows it’s exactly what would happen.)

Is it morally acceptable for Joe to push the man off the footbridge, killing him while preventing the deaths of the five workmen on the track?

If you feel uneasy saying yes, you’re in good company. Most people find the idea of pushing the man off the footbridge less than morally palatable.

First, it’s not clear that most people find that idea “less than morally palatable.” In this study, 90% chose to kill the guy. Except a 2008 study found that 90% wouldn’t do it, here, and more or less accused the 10% who would of being psychopaths. There is clearly a methodological problem here.

Second, let me put it to you this way. Did the people on flight 93 act morally when they crashed the plane? That was the deliberate killing of 44 people in order to save an unknown number of people (it could have been more or less—125 were killed at the Pentagon by another flight, so depending on the target, who knows?)

Despite what this writer implies, the passengers of Flight 93 are almost universally regarded as heroes and have probably entered the permanent pantheon of American heroes.

I am still of the opinion that part of the problem with this argument is that it assumes that the non-robotic shooter has the same discipline. Lotsa people get shot by skittish cops. Just sayin.’

The fact remains: there is no rational argument against drones. If I hear one, I’ll let you know.

So, you're all like, PROVE IT then!

I said that the drone fnording going on on the left is the kind of politics that sucks, right?

Here’s the numbers. 71% pro/ 20% con. There’s not even a vientisiete against it! Even if the question is Americans, drones have a 10 point lead on average, and a 11 point lead among Democrats.

Drones have more fans than Jesus. And the reason(s) is/are simple, really:

• Cheaper than fighter jets
• No ‘muricans exposed to danger
• Stealthy and small
• At least as precise as other forms of striking

Seriously, folks. If we’re going to make fun of wingers for having Red Dawn fantasies, we shouldn’t have Terminator ones.

Droooooooooooooones. Again.


Should armed drones actually be authorized to fire on Dorner, then it would be a first, and frankly a terrifying precedent

(Emphasis original.)

Why? Why is that more terrifying than the armed police out there who are shooting at innocent people who bear no resemblance whatsoever to Dorner or his truck? If anything, someone hidden in a cave 1,000 miles away is not going to be afraid of getting shot at by someone else and so is probably not going to pull the trigger based on anything other than good info. That is an improvement.

So, just like with the problem with droooooooooooonnes in the military, where the problem is war, here the problem isn’t drooooooooones, it’s the criminal justice system, or, more likely, gun and mental health laws.

* In a bit of Gawker journalistic standards expressed, Giz cites another paper and then claims to confirm it thusly: “Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz… has confirmed—though not explicitly—and is quoted as saying “We are using all the tools at our disposal.”(Emphasis added).

How is it a confirmation if it’s not explicit?

More on fnord Drones fnord

From Balloon Juice:

War is hell.  The Pentagon is in the business of conducting said warfare in the most casualty-efficient way possible that still achieves the goal of ending the metabolic processes of The Bad Guys.  The problem isn’t drones, the problem is the perpetual war machine that’s predated this President for a very, very long time.  We’re screaming about al-Awlaki’s kid when My Lai, the bombing of Dresden, and Nagasaki and Hiroshima happened.  Let’s face it, for America, that’s effing progress.

Angst over drones is the kind of Nation liberalism that created the electoral defeats leading to the destruction of labor as an American political entity. It also gives the Naderite intifada grist for their mills.

There are people who, for example, feel revulsion at the fact that we killed Bin Laden. I understand the kernel of that sentiment. The sentiment worries about state killing, like the people shot for delivering newspapers by the LAPD. From there, you decide that states should never kill (if they would just stop—especially the United States—there would be world peace). But this can only be explained as some sort of religious conviction, because it doesn’t actually achieve anything real.

Yes, all of it is killing. But that linguistic coincidence is where it begins and ends. If your convictions are predicated on the equivalence between the killing of Osama bin Laden and police abuse victims, you must at least own that you’re in a tiny minority (and one crippled by over simplicity).

Line-drawing is hard. I’m not sure how far below Bin Laden the line should fall. Definitely above police being able to shoot at anyone. But life, especially in government, is basically about drawing lines between shades of grey and almost never about intellectually facile consistencies.


If I were a cynic, I would say that they hate drones because the less collateral damage there is, the more difficult opposing war “just because” becomes. When pacifism becomes an agenda instead of a means to a better world, then you get this kind of horeshit.

fnord drones fnord

Is it that this is a generation too strongly heeled on The Terminator or is there really something different about a remote controlled airplane launching a missile and killing someone as opposed to a human piloting an aircraft or a missile launched 1,000 miles away?

To me there is no difference except that less of our blood and treasure is exposed to loss.

So, the pacifist blogosphere is shitting its panties (sorry) this weak about the fact that the President can order these strikes. They are framing it as “execution” and the government being able to decide to kill anyone at any time.

That’s a nice argument only insofar as it fills pages in academic journals. If Big Brother is really coming for you, the only scenario less likely than a Red Dawn rebellion is one where a bunch of old white judges (a) order a stop to it and (b) said order is followed.

If the President is killing the wrong people, people must be trained to use their political remedies because the legal ones will not help you when the real trouble begins.