A Letter to Coffee Joe (A Strategic Analysis of Drone Warfare)
By Jim Willingham
Sunday, August 27, 2012
The Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, was a guest on Coffee Joe, Monday, August 19. I have written a letter, also for the Secretary, in a non-partisan, non-judgmental way, going below the particulars to a deeper grounding, cross-training. We're at an impasse. There's a rational way through this. This is a strategic analysis of the current situation.
Secretary Donley talked about drones and said they are not un-manned aircraft; they are manned aircraft, with a pilot, a weapons officer, and an operations officer and they are supported by many more people. He then praised the airmen and listed the aging fleet of tankers, bombers and fighters. No one said a responsible word about it. As a former Air Force pilot, I know that drones are ground-controlled un-manned aircraft, the same as the Mars Rover is an earth-controlled, un-manned research vehicle. It's a stretch to say that they are manned.
The Secretary presented drones as a metamorphosis of warfare. They are a transmogrification of war. Throughout the history of aviation, pilots have always been desensitized to warfare. Drones are a further desensitization of that.
Speaking as a nation, though not in our name, we are creating more anger and grief than any amount of somehow suspected and identified individuals can be killed by our drones, because of the gross collateral damage, horror and despair. This is propelled by a stubborn inertia, with no foresight, none. Don't show weakness or restraint.
Massive invasions are no longer possible, so the tactic was shifted to assassinations, targeted enemies. That has now become the predominant strategy against Al-Qaeda and affiliates. The Taliban are not Al-Qaeda.
There will be an eventual decentralization of geo-political power. This is self-evident. They are no longer submissive, as when the colonial powers dealt with kings, by supporting them, and then built up their colonial administrations. They resist. Neo-colonialism will end.
Post-neocolonialism can come relatively peacefully, or it can arrive within our own realm to haunt us. We are perpetuating a climate of fear that is disproportionate and unfocused, displaced. We are stubborn because we have been scared, and hurt, but that new awakening into vigilance became a hyper-vengeance and that is what nobody at the table understood well enough to make a non-judgmental response. It was an obvious presentation, with an unexpressed consent.
Drones don't work. They are not a tactic nor a strategy. Al-Qaeda has two advantages over the US They know us, but we don't know them (Sun Tzu). We won't allow ourselves to know them, because they are aberrant to us. When Jesus said, "Love your enemies," he was not making a naive platitude. He is a strong, reasoned mind. Our mutual alienation with Al-Qaeda will become worse, unless we can find a way through this morass. We are afraid to face our fears with trust in that man's rational knowing. We cannot love Al-Qaeda, but we can realize the value in understanding their motivations. We only look at their suspected immediate intentions and take them out, plus many more others, who we should love!
These "others" are what drone crews are purposefully emotionally shielded from, by dislocation. It is not only the risk of aircrews in combat. It is their eventual combat fatigue, and America's.
Drone crews are now showing signs of PTSD. They have to observe their targets, kill them, and then observe and report the air strike damage, in graphic detail. We are immunized to their impact. Drone crews become as intimate with their targets as ground military assassins do, with multiple kills. These men, and now women, have done what before they would have thought unthinkable and they become burdened by that, because killing is not "mettle." Killing is not natural to our psyche. They follow orders based upon "likely" appearance and location, association, "preaching" from despair, and "information" from the Saudi and Yemeni Kings, who are taking out their political opponents. The drone crews have become judge, jury, and executioner, pre-emptive assassins. We think that, since we are shielded from this, we are safe. It's an illusion.
We cannot make fighter air strikes in Pakistan or in Yemen, because this would bring on, catalyze, spawn an unchangeable, fixed, hard-and-fast, hyperbolic furor, as though that has not already been done. Attack drones can stray into foreign airspace without immediate detection from the ground and have a "parsed" local impact. "Parsing" warfare by "legitimizing" killing with drones is like "parsing" rape into "legitimate" rape and "not really" rape. The world knows this, but we do not.
Tankers are necessary for the rapid geo-political extension of air power. They can ferry bombers and fighters worldwide. We do not need another fleet of them, any more than we need hyper-sonic drones. The world knows this, but we do not. We are paranoid.
The cost is not irrelevant and it is money spent on obsolete posturing. China is not imperialist. They are territorial and are peacefully investing in the third world, while we owe them immense debt.... "500,000" little Iraqi children were not "worth it!" Our fighters terror-bombed the Baghdad water purification plants, cultivated water-borne bactericidal diseases. There were no battlefield advancements in armored personnel carriers from Desert Storm until 2010, long after the Operation Iraqi Freedom was kicked off. Ask a Marine! We will strangle Iran until there is war. Don't tell me UNESCO is for wimps and cowards!
President Eisenhower knew warfare and he was a professional diplomat. His exposure to war made him grow into the relative understanding that we, as a nation, need today. We cannot have a relative peace without restraint.
One more thing: We do know as much as those at the helm of the Ship of State. "Democracy is coming to the USA. Sail on. Sail on, oh Ship of State! Sail on, sail on," Toward a relative peace.
Jim Willingham is a VVAW member living in St. Petersburg, Florida.