Mechanized Imperialism

The drone wars

by , September 23, 2011

The Obama administration has found a good way to avoid both the domestic political and international fallout that comes of waging constant warfare: let machines do the dirty work. Of course, the Obamaites don’t get the full credit for the discovery – drone  attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan were part of the Bush team‘s strategic plan, but the Obama White House has gone much further in utilizing this tactic to escalate and extend American military operations around the world, and they’re doing it in secret – without congressional oversight, without public debate, and without the knowledge or consent of the American people. 

The theater of operations is vast – potentially as vast as the world itself, given the rationale of pursing “terrorists” wherever they might be detected – and, so far, the range extends from the tribal regions of Pakistan to the African savannah, where pilotless “Reapers” take off from airfields in Ethiopia and Djibouti in search of prey. According to reports, US bases have also been established in Saudi Arabia and the Seychelles for this purpose. The latter, I hear, are quite happy about what this has done for local business: Americans may be standing in the unemployment lines, while their taxes go to fund endless war, but the Seychellois are in relatively good shape these days.  

In any case, the latest targets of these unmanned killer-drones are located, as far as we know, in Somalia, where the Islamic group al-Shabab is alleged to have some vague ties to al-Qaeda. But that’s just what they’re telling us: because this is a secret war, we don’t know the real targets. It is highly likely, however, that among those targets are numerous rebel groups rising against the tyranny of Ethiopian “president” Meles Zenawi

Zenawi is a former Marxist-Leninist guerrilla leader whose repressive government has slaughtered minority groups, outlawed the opposition, stolen “elections,” and instituted a reign of terror in the country. It won’t be long now before we see groups like the Oromo Liberation Front and other armed opponents of the regime labeled “terrorist” allies of al-Qaeda. Just as Afghan tribal chieftains give misleading “intelligence” to US forces in order to target rival clans, so we can expect the same – albeit on a larger scale – in Africa. This is part of the price we pay for Zenawi allowing a US base on Ethiopian territory.  

The Seychelles, another “former” Marxist one-party state, is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean: the head of state, James Michel, inherited his position from the former dictator, France-Albert Rene, who overthrew the first elected Seychellois president, James Mancham a short year after the former British colony gained independence. A series of phony elections have since been held, with the ruling party managing to stay in office due to gerrymandering and vote-buying. While not as openly repressive as Zenawi, Michel is of the same type: a “former” commie who has changed his colors but not his ways. These are our great allies in the “war on terrorism.” 

The expansion of the war effort in this way has transformed the CIA into an international militarized force whose analysts are tasked with finding enough targets to keep the drones flying. Combing the world for alleged “terrorists,” and keeping their activities well out of the spotlight, the “new” CIA, under Gen. David Petraeus, is primed and ready for its mission, which is to expand the frontiers of our endless “war on terrorism.” 

This new role for the CIA has its domestic political uses, keeping knowledge of our latest wars “top secret” and therefore safe from nosey congressional committees, journalists, and most of all the American people. The mechanized imperialism of the drone wars gives our leaders the ability to distance themselves from their own criminal actions, and keep US casualties down to a minimum. It’s clean, it’s cold, and it’s cowardly – which just about describes the methods of modern American imperialism to a tee. 

The drone wars are conducted by remote control, with US military personnel guiding their mechanized killers from US bases. However, even this degree of proximity may be eliminated shortly. As Jason Ditz points out: 

“Researchers are working on a number of software packages to take the “remote control” out of the picture and let the robots decide on their own who to lob missiles at. Researchers say this would be an important development because the robots would decide who to murder much faster than CIA targeters are liable to.” 

Thus we avoid taking moral responsibility for our actions, and eliminate the possibility that someone with a conscience would refuse to hit a designated target: a machine cannot question orders. It’s all very science fictional, and distinctively American (in the modern sense): antiseptic and utterly amoral. 

While we’re at it, why not delegate the formulation of our foreign policy to these soul-less machines? It wouldn’t be hard: just input the longstanding assumptions that have governed that misguided and bloody policy – American global hegemony, the requirements of crony capitalism, and unthinking support for Israel – and the machines can take it from there. 

NOTES IN THE MARGIN 

I’m going to be on television tomorrow (Friday), on “Freedom Watch” with Judge Andrew Napolitano. Check your listings for show times.

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