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What is a gun? A means of killing game. A way to threaten, stop, and/or kill an antagonist.
A gun is a remote killing machine. It is a mechanical extension of the fist, or a club, or an arrow.
Point a gun in the direction of a living target, pull a trigger, and if everything works correctly, both mechanically and on the part of the operator, the target is engaged and terminated.
Yes, that’s right, a gun is the predecessor of the drones of today — it is a remote killing machine that dates to medieval times, and one that is still being perfected. Our fascination and horror of the flying drones of the 21st century is no greater than that felt about the rise of guns hundreds of years ago.
The wonder at the power of remote killing, with concomitant reduced risk to the killer, is a magnet for the predatory instincts of humankind.
As the world evolves its social institutions, bringing us closer and closer together through our common bonds as human beings, our predatory instincts and our arsenal of precision predatory tools remains, and even grows. It is one of the great dichotomies of the human condition.
Whether we are considering gun legislation or drawing the rules of military engagement, we must consider these critical, divergent, conflicting dimensions of our fundamental character.
We hear more about drones as technology and less about their strategic purpose as remote killing machines, and the implications of that rapidly increasing capability.
Rocks and sticks and other sharp objects were the first drones — killing devices controlled by humans at some distance, however modest, from their target. Chinese firesticks, rifles, pistols, cannon then came along, followed by flying manned bombers and missiles.
Reagan tinkered with space-based lasers, but that costly technology wound up on two card tables in the basement of Yerkes Observatory at Geneva Lake, Wisconsin.
Then, to further help avert the need for sending in troops or blowing up large chunks of geography, and to save a few gazillion bucks too, we come to the era of drones, which cannot only kill more precisely, but invade the privacy of anything that can be scanned from the air.
We’re upset about collateral damage — those innocents near a target who get killed, and whose families will forever hate and seek revenge on the monsters responsible. We’re concerned that anyone, including U.S. citizens, can be targeted by drones, with an apparent paucity of checks and balances to be sure they deserve a death sentence from the sky.
What’s next, perhaps lasers carried aloft by drones, which can pin-point a target more closely, and explode the brain of a single person? And what happens when rogues of all kinds — terrorists, nations or even individuals — can target people anywhere with drones? Yes, that’s around the corner, too. Have we unleashed the terror of the end times?
Well, that’s what peoples have thought each step along the way of remote killing. But Instead of gun powder and vast armies moving across the terrain, we have pin pricks of death popping off human targets anywhere at will. At the end of the day, the only saving grace for individuals will be the overwhelming use of power — new powers — by protecting entities.
Like a country, like the U.S., approaching a time with a gun in nearly every home and pocket book, the day of the ubiquitous killing drone is just around the corner. Interesting that our far-seeing government has canned NASA’s human space program. Now, we can just send out our drones to conquer the universe. And so it goes. Sorry for “droning” on.
I checked the military oaths for enlisted and commissioned members of the military (Google them), and found that they have an important difference. I took both of these in the Army, as an enlisted Private and then as a commissioned officer, Second Lieutenant. I don’t see anywhere that one oath supersedes the other, nor are they additive, and in fact some people enter service as an officer, and therefore might not take the enlisted oath.
It is very interesting that the enlisted oath requires them to “obey the orders of the President of the United States and the officer’s appointed over me,” as well as follow the Constitution, while the officer’s oath has no mention of following the orders of the President of the United States or the officers appointed over them. This strikes me as a very odd and disturbing inconsistency. It can only be interpreted as meaning officers only have an obligation to “support and defend the Constitution,” and the interpretation of how to do so is left up to them individually.
I also note that each oath stipulates the obligation to protect “against all enemies, foreign or DOMESTIC.” In light of the current furor over new documents regulating decisions to make drone strikes that indicate the U.S. can kill suspected enemies, including U.S. citizens, without any legal evidence, but just the suspicion they are dangerous to the U.S. The presence of “domestic enemies” in the military oaths that have been around so long is interesting in light of these new documents, just revealed in the news media today.
These newly revealed documents only add to my increasing concern about the apparent vagueness and weakening of judiciary standards and checks and balances in the decision-making and relationships between our elected civilian government, the intelligence community, the military and the judiciary. The greatest victim in all this may be the degree of public transparency necessary to the survival of this or any constitutional democracy.
Those of you who watch the Jon Stewart Show no doubt have noticed how often he and his research staff manage to hang politicians on the irony of contrary statements they’ve made in the past, by digging up vidoe of their previous ironic transgressions. I call this the Jon Stewart Effect. We often enjoy these clips immensly.
But it concerns me more and more that electronic journalism makes it easier and easier to dig up people’s past comments, and use them to make them look inconsistent or dangerous in the present. I see this going on now regarding Chuck Hagel’s potential nomination for Secretary of Defense. The Jon Stewart Effect is a “perfect” example of where the perfect becomes the enemy of the good. We all make mistakes and say and do things we may regret. And we continue to learn from our life experiences. In Hagel’s case, his previous comments on Israel make sense in current terms, but are being taken out of context by those who choose to oppose him.
So, let’s be careful how we use selective clips of people’s previous remarks, made in another time and context. Such electronic wizardry can indeed become an enemy of the good. Howevere, for political comedy purposes, if the Jon Stewart Effect stays on his show, and out of the national news, I’ll have no complaints.
Five questions for which the debaters won’t have answers…
October 3, 2012
In the Presidential debates tonight, I doubt whether either candidate will have realistic answers for these 5 questions.
1. When will our endless wars and military occupations stop?
2. How and when will we unwind our spiraling national debt?
3. When and how will we implement election reform and restore civility to federal government?
4. How will each American receive the medical care they deserve and how will it be paid?
5. How and when will the banking and financial risk industries be separated again?
With CNN reporting that President Obama has secretly arrived in Afghanistan to sign an agreement for some kind of continuation of forces beyond 2014, one can honestly question whether this generation will ever see an end to U.S. involvement in the conflict there.
The only acceptable “excuse” for America‘s continued presence might be as some sort of insurance policy to keep nuclear, radical Pakistan at bay, although why that can’t be accomplished without ground forces is a mystery to me.
My concern is not just about the continued exposure of U.S. troops to what amounts to civil war, in which the U.S. serves as a political mercenary force. My concern is that the massive economic cost of our continued presence will be even more destabilizing here at home than would our total departure from Afghanistan.
Our continued presence in Afghanistan is one more reason why the next generation of Americans will not get enough education or job opportunities, that is, unless they volunteer for military service or contract service to the military. Another generation will loyally go to war, while leaders will write books about their difficult choices, and the populace will wither because of the unfortunate choices those short-sighted, narrow-minded “leaders” have made on our behalf.
For decades now, if you recall, word has been out that Iran is about to have a nuclear bomb. Now, somehow, we hear it is imminent. This sounds like more politics, than reality, to me. If we are so worried about an Islamic state possessing the bomb, what about Pakistan? They’ve had it for years, and the U.S., inadvertently or not, financed a lot of its development with our aid.
We just got out of Iraq, at least sort of. And we’re on a road that should also get us out of Afghanistan in a few years, at least sort of. Why would we be so foolish to get into Iran now, much less Syria?
Yes, today is the 4th of July, but the event we are commemorating is Independence Day, which means a lot in reference to our freedom and democracy in the U.S. Doesn’t it bug you when others say, “Have a happy 4th.” Guess it’s too much trouble to remind people we’re celebrating our freedom.
2. Lots of media coverage out there of the impending end of the Shuttle Space program, as if that’s something we should celebrate, when the opposite is true. We learn a lot of practical things through the space program every day, including taking baby steps towards the possible future salvation of mankind, when we’ve worn this world out. Now, if we want to venture out there, we have to make a reservation with the Russians for a ride to the Space Station, which we’ve spent billions developing. We hear our scientists are now focused on “deep space,” which is good, but doesn’t that ring a little hollow when we remember what this nation accomplished when John Kennedy challenged us, almost 50 years ago, to put a man on the moon?
3. The news is reporting that the last draftee from the Vietnam War is retiring from the military after 32 years of service. This generation is relieved that the draft is gone, and that war is now left to professional volunteers. It still doesn’t occur to many that we might have moved these decade-long wars of the 21st century along a little faster if we all recognized we have a stake in what neurotic politicians and military/industrial bureaucrats drag us into. Of course, we’re about to go bankrupt as a nation because of Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe that will get our attention.
4. All that said, it’s a nice day to enjoy family, the outdoors, good food, good friends and our freedom. Happy Independence Day, and may there be many more!
Taking out Bin Laden is a milestone in recovering from 9/11. Now we should celebrate by accelerating getting out of Afghanistan, and continue doing so in Iraq — that would be the real “victory” for America. And by the way, have we learned our lesson? War is a very inefficient, self-destructive form of vengeance.
Here’s something to keep in mind as we mull over how and where to cut Federal spending.
I remember a quotation from Isaac Asimov I’d seen at the foundation museum in Gernika, Spain, site of Franco and Hitler’s carpet-bombing atrocity during the Spanish Civil War, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”