Drones and Debts: Decisions Depend on Whose Finger is on the Trigger
According to Andy Kohut, Founding Director of the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, drone strikes are overwhelmingly supported in the United States and overwhelmingly opposed in every other country. No data was provided on the views of the two political parties (depending on which one occupies the White House), but they appear to follow the same pattern.
The shocking conclusion appears to be that attitudes about drones depend on whose finger is on the trigger.
According to Mark R. Jacobson, a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, in his recent articleFive myths about Obama’s drone war, “At least since Pope Innocent II banned the use of crossbows against Christians in 1139, new military technologies have always created strategic and ethical dilemmas. And armed drones — the weapons of choice for today’s battlefield without boundaries — are no exception. Do drone strikes provide a compelling option when battling terrorist networks, or does the controversy they generate outweigh the benefit?”
The myths and answers are the author’s. Italicized phrases are mine.
- Drones are Immoral – Depends on how they are aimed.
- Drone Strikes Cause Inordinate Civilian Casualties – Far less than bombs but they are perceived as unjust. Few identify the unfairness of the competition – bullying — as a reason, but it is assuredly the case.
- Drones Allow Us to Fight Wars Without Danger – They can’t do everything required in a war like train soldiers or strengthen local governments.
- Drones Are Technologically Complex Weapons That Only Rich Nations Can Afford – More than 50 nations operate surveillance drones and the need for complexity depends on the size of the target. The larger it is, the dumber the drone can be.
- Obama Will Be Remembered as the Drone President – The jury is out and Congressional oversight might not offer the desired solution.
Zachary Karabell, President of River Twice Research, where he analyzes economic and political trends, and author of “Sustainable Excellence: The Future of Business in the 21st Century” suggests “Another way to look at the National Debt.”
He asks us “to consider the following heretical idea: We have no debt problem.” Despite my initial disagreement with his idea, I was rewarded for reading on.
Though U.S. history with debt does not stretch as far back as Innocent II, it has been a consistently dominant issue since Hamilton and Jefferson. William Jennings Bryan tried to use his “cross of gold” as a vaulting pole to the presidency.
According to Karabell, it is not the debt but the use of debt that is the problem. It may be good to borrow for some things and bad to borrow it for others (he was reeling me back from my initial skepticism).
“… we have borrowed to close the gap between our dreams and our reality, and much of that gap has been consumption. We have used deficits primarily to maintain our desired levels of buying stuff and using stuff, whether that stuff is next-generation fighter jets or larger homes. We have used deficits to fight wars, and we have also used them to maintain our collective commitment to the many millions who cannot earn enough to meet basic needs such as housing, food and health care.
Either way, we are using deficits in the manner most likely to cause subsequent problems. Debt or investment that yields future return is the height of rationality. Public debt for education, for infrastructure, for research and development, or for public-private partnerships all could yield massive returns. But that is not the primary use of our current debt. Instead, we use it to avoid making hard decisions.”
Borrowing to fill the political troughs your friends and voters makes all the political sense in the world – just none of the financial sense. And, though both parties do it, each criticizes the other for doing so. Worse, it can’t be done forever. The United States is at the tipping point of discovering that and is now borrowing from itself to postpone the reckoning.
Killing people under secret rules also makes all the political sense in the world – just none of the strategic sense. Again, though both parties do it, each criticizes the other for doing so. And it can’t be done forever either. The United States is not yet at the cost-benefit tipping point on drones, but that does not mean there isn’t one.
The real problems created by both debt and drones are pushed on to the next person with his finger on the trigger, who might, at the time, find both pointed back at him.