Only in America: It turns out that we’re the sole country on the planet where a majority of people (62%) are sunnily in favor of sending drones across the globe (and across the borders of other countries) to take out terrorists. According to Pew Research’s latest polling, that includes 74% of Republicans, 60% of independents, and 58% of Democrats. Nowhere else is such sentiment to be found. In France, 63% disapprove; in Mexico, 73%; in Turkey, 81%; in Egypt, 89%; and in Pakistan, where drone strikes are a constant, 97% of those who know about them are opposed. Whatever the world may think — and in the U.S., there are liberals ready to argue vigorously for the “morality” of drones — the Air Force (and the CIA) are plunging ahead training pilots and expanding their drone fleets. In fact, the Air Force is already training more drone pilots than bomber and fighter pilots combined.
After a decade-plus of in-person, in-your-face disaster on the Eurasian mainland, high-tech, remote-controlled war in which American pilots are thousands of miles away from those they attack is increasingly seen as the way of the imperial future. Drones, in fact, give the idea of remote-controlled war a distinctly post-modern, sci-fi gloss. The thought of victory at next to no human cost (to us) couldn’t, it turns out, be more appealing in the “homeland.” But don’t be fooled: drones are just the latest twist in such a war strategy. Conceptually, remote-controlled war is, if not as old as Adam, then certainly as old as empire.
Or put another way, the urge of great powers to have the locals do most, if not all, of the dying for them is anything but new (even if replacing indigenous troops with machines has a distinctly modern, outsourced twist to it). After all, nineteenth century European powers regularly fought their colonial wars with tiny elites of white officers commanding large contingents of native proxy forces, trained, armed, and ready to enforce imperial interests. As part of his TomDispatch series on the “changing face of empire,” Nick Turse has been tracking the sci-fi frontiers of remote-controlled war, American-style (and some of that work can be found in the new book he’s co-authored, Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050). Now, he turns to machine-less proxy war, as Washington ensures that the oldest form of outsourcing of life and death once again has its grim (and unpredictable) day in the sun. Tom
Washington Puts Its Money on Proxy War:
The Election Year Outsourcing that No One’s Talking About
By Nick Turse