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Source: (consider it) Thread: The legality of drone strikes
Barnabas62
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This thread is a spin off from a tangent in the long running "Oops Trump" thread.

Here is a link posted in the other thread.

chris styles and I have had some exchanges on the Oops thread. We are in agreement that it is a "grey area", but not I think just how "grey it is".

I think it is an important topic and worthy of a separate thread. Over to you for views and opinions

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romanlion
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As far as the US Constitution is the basis for US law:

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.


The power to declare war is granted specifically to congress in Article 1 Section 8.

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mr cheesy
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I am not a lawyer so I might be completely wrong, but my understanding is that international NGOs say that there are issues with drone strike in international law when they're being used to launch attacks against individuals in countries that are not actually in conflict.

So attacks in Pakistan when the issues are in Afghanistan.

But then there are other humanitarian law issues, including when the attacks target unarmed civilians or when civilians are killed by accident.

On the other hand this might be all academic. Nobody is really in a position to hold the USA or anyone else who uses drones to account under international law.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles on the Trump thread:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
As a follow up, here is a detailed look at the legality of drone strikes. And this is the grey area. What limits apply to the pursuit of unlawful combatants, given that the traditional definition of battleground doesn't really work any more.

Which glosses over the irregular nature of the 'war' (both in temporal and spatial terms), and completely ignores the issue of so-called 'signature strikes'.
And here is a copy of a key post from chris styles, raising two specific issues.

1. The irregular nature of the 'war'
2. Signature Strikes.

What may be an issue under point 1 is the constitutionality and status under international law of the Military Commissions Act 2006 (modified in 2009). Central to that is the definition of unlawful enemy combatant (as opposed to lawful enemy combatant). What steps are legal and permissible to capture or kill people who are classified this way? What are their rights under international law?

On the second point, signature strikes, there are many critical articles to be found online. Here is one example.

Maybe these questions are worth exploring first?

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BroJames
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quote:
Originally posted by romanlion:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger

I'm not clear what this means. Does it allow a separate military justice to operate in time of war such that persons can be liable without presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury if the case arises "in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger". Or does it mean that "in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger" there can be no liability even on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury?
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Doc Tor
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(steels himself to agree with romanlion)

I'm pretty certain that in both UK and US law, drone strikes outside of a designated field of conflict are most likely state-sponsored murder.

We can dress this up which ever way we want. We can cite the immanent danger to UK assets and civilians, we can cite difficulties in trying to arrest or extradite persons of interest, we can point out all the measures we take to minimise civilian casualties, we can even squirm around the term 'extra-judicial killing'.

But it comes down to hunting and killing people we think are too dangerous to allow to live, without any independent scrutiny of those decisions, in places which are effectively away from the public gaze, or care.

And of course innocent people die. Explody boom containers are indifferent to walls, passengers, drivers, passersby.

If we have decided that's our policy, let's at least call it for what it is.

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mr cheesy
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Can that be the case? Doesn't the CIA have legal cover for foreign assassinations?

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Is a suicide bomber a walking, living drone?

The whole thing is horrid.

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Sioni Sais
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I'm probably being dim here but I find it hard to differentiate between drone strikes and similar strikes carried out by other means, eg piloted aircraft and artillery, for similar reasons and consequences.

Apart from the pilot/weapons systems operator being thousands of miles away I can't see a difference. Can someone help me please?

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romanlion
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quote:
Originally posted by Sioni Sais:
I'm probably being dim here but I find it hard to differentiate between drone strikes and similar strikes carried out by other means, eg piloted aircraft and artillery, for similar reasons and consequences.

Apart from the pilot/weapons systems operator being thousands of miles away I can't see a difference. Can someone help me please?

This is illuminating, because there is no difference. You can imagine the different reactions though, if we were talking about M1 Abrams patrolling thousands of miles from any conflict zone and taking out anyone deemed by the executive as deserving of death.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Sioni Sais:
I'm probably being dim here but I find it hard to differentiate between drone strikes and similar strikes carried out by other means, eg piloted aircraft and artillery, for similar reasons and consequences.

In theory there is no difference. In practice there are a number of things in play - as the infrastructure used is less expensive a lot of the normal command hierarchy can be side-stepped (thus 'compressing the kill chain'). As the units are smaller they are less likely to show up on radar and necessitate embarrassing explanations to the military/governments of other countries except maybe after the event, and the fact that human life isn't risked on the offensive side means that politicians are far more likely to use it as a means.

It parallels a number of moves of Othering, that creates a realm outside the West in which due process need not apply, where infrastructure damage doesn't matter as it is inhabited by people who aren't civilised in the way 'we' are, and where civilian casualties can be reduced to collateral damage and 'bug splats'.

[ 09. February 2018, 13:12: Message edited by: chris stiles ]

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Tortuf
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quote:
Originally posted by Sioni Sais:
Apart from the pilot/weapons systems operator being thousands of miles away I can't see a difference. Can someone help me please?

I agree that the result for the people being shot at, bombed, assaulted, is the same within some limits.

The difference is that a plane low enough to shoot with some accuracy is probably going to be going fast to keep the pilot from getting shot. That means a lot of stray rounds shot both before and after the target.

Drones are smaller and harder to hit and do not have a crew on board. That can mean a little more accuracy, thereby reducing unintended casualties.

Which brings to mind that the alternative to drones and planes and helicopters is troops on the ground. That means something has to insert them. That means they have to navigate to the intended site, risking their own lives and the lives of people they encounter on the way. Then, there may well be a fire fight involving people who might have guns, but might not otherwise be involved in combat. Just because it would be live people is no guarantee that they might not shoot at anything that moves out of fear that a moving person might well be seeking cover for safety, or a better firing position. After that, the whole process would have to be reversed.

All of the foregoing assumes the legitimacy of war.

I understand the perceived need to fight people like IS. I also understand that for every soul we kill to protect our interests, we have raised up a whole new group of people intent upon revenge.

Violence begets violence. This is a lesson history has taught us time after time after time.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
quote:
Originally posted by romanlion:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger

I'm not clear what this means. Does it allow a separate military justice to operate in time of war such that persons can be liable without presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury if the case arises "in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger". Or does it mean that "in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger" there can be no liability even on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury?
That section of the U.S. Constitution is covering two things. First, it's stipulating that the military ("the land or naval forces, or in the Militia") operates according to a law different than the law applicable to everyone else. (Note that the Militia only operates under military law "when in actual service in time of War or public danger".) At present the military law of the United States is the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Courts martial operate differently than civilian courts and can proceed without an indictment from a Grand Jury.

Second, it holds that in all cases which do not fall within the military's purview an indictment from a Grand Jury is required before trial for "a capital, or otherwise infamous crime". There are some exceptions from case law. For example ex parte Milligan held that it's okay to try civilians in military court, but only in situations where the local civilian courts were not functioning due to whatever "War or public danger" required a military presence in the first place.

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Sioni Sais
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quote:
Originally posted by Tortuf:
quote:
Originally posted by Sioni Sais:
Apart from the pilot/weapons systems operator being thousands of miles away I can't see a difference. Can someone help me please?

I agree that the result for the people being shot at, bombed, assaulted, is the same within some limits.

The difference is that a plane low enough to shoot with some accuracy is probably going to be going fast to keep the pilot from getting shot. That means a lot of stray rounds shot both before and after the target.

Drones are smaller and harder to hit and do not have a crew on board. That can mean a little more accuracy, thereby reducing unintended casualties.

Which brings to mind that the alternative to drones and planes and helicopters is troops on the ground. That means something has to insert them. That means they have to navigate to the intended site, risking their own lives and the lives of people they encounter on the way. Then, there may well be a fire fight involving people who might have guns, but might not otherwise be involved in combat. Just because it would be live people is no guarantee that they might not shoot at anything that moves out of fear that a moving person might well be seeking cover for safety, or a better firing position. After that, the whole process would have to be reversed.

All of the foregoing assumes the legitimacy of war.

I understand the perceived need to fight people like IS. I also understand that for every soul we kill to protect our interests, we have raised up a whole new group of people intent upon revenge.

Violence begets violence. This is a lesson history has taught us time after time after time.

Thanks, that's pretty much what I understood.

The differences are entirely practical. There are no legal, moral or ethical differences IMHO. It might not be fair to use drones, because they are a considerable force multiplier, but I'm sure the net/medium-term effect will be to act as a spur to those under attack to step up their efforts, and the outcome of that will be still more drone attacks.

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Barnabas62
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I think the argument about means (drones or otherwise) is well made. The legal issues seem to be about 'who' and 'where' not 'what with'.

I don't think the Military Commissions Act 2006 contradicts Article 5 of the US Constitution and the definition of unlawful enemy combatant does allow for the fact that such people, not representing a nation state at war, but terrorist organisations, are expected to be found in other sovereign states. Subject to the laws of armed combat, they become legitimate capture or kill targets if they are classified that way. And I think POTUS has broad discretionary powers over such classifications. The legal challenge against MCA 2006 was not on the issues of the legitimacy of that definition of unlawful enemy combatant, nor the discretionary powers, but whether it could be applied to US citizens.

Coupled with Article 51, legitimate self-defence, I think this is the current legal defence for the legitimacy of drone strikes (or other means). I might be wrong about that. Happy to be corrected. But if I am right, the other restraint is the laws of armed combat, which certainly cover taking all possible steps to avoid the deaths of innocent noncombatants.

MCA 2006 was heavily criticised by various civil liberties groups and legal authorities, but it was passed by Congress, then subject to 2009 modification.

So it is US Law and is not, so far as I am aware, the subject of legal attack, nationally or internationally. Does it contradict Amendment V of the US constitution? I guess someone could try to make the argument. Does the use of drones contravene the laws of armed combat? I think that is probably a case by case issue, particularly over the steps taken to avoid harm to noncombatants.

[ 09. February 2018, 14:49: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by Tortuf:
quote:
Originally posted by Sioni Sais:
Apart from the pilot/weapons systems operator being thousands of miles away I can't see a difference. Can someone help me please?

I agree that the result for the people being shot at, bombed, assaulted, is the same within some limits.

The difference is that a plane low enough to shoot with some accuracy is probably going to be going fast to keep the pilot from getting shot. That means a lot of stray rounds shot both before and after the target.

Drones are smaller and harder to hit and do not have a crew on board. That can mean a little more accuracy, thereby reducing unintended casualties.

Which brings to mind that the alternative to drones and planes and helicopters is troops on the ground. That means something has to insert them. That means they have to navigate to the intended site, risking their own lives and the lives of people they encounter on the way. Then, there may well be a fire fight involving people who might have guns, but might not otherwise be involved in combat. Just because it would be live people is no guarantee that they might not shoot at anything that moves out of fear that a moving person might well be seeking cover for safety, or a better firing position. After that, the whole process would have to be reversed.

All of the foregoing assumes the legitimacy of war.

I understand the perceived need to fight people like IS. I also understand that for every soul we kill to protect our interests, we have raised up a whole new group of people intent upon revenge.

Violence begets violence. This is a lesson history has taught us time after time after time.

After time immemorial forever and ever, amen.

The calculus is therefore 'we' will 'manage' 'them' and their attacks too. Like the American mass shooting rate, it's sustainable for the foreseeable future. There will have to be a sustained period, many months, of outrages every few weeks for anything to change. I mean you're four hundred times more likely to die using your phone while driving. 2% of terrorist killings are in Europe. And the change wouldn't be for the good. Drone strikes would increase for a start.

[ 09. February 2018, 14:51: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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Doc Tor
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
So it is US Law and is not, so far as I am aware, the subject of legal attack, nationally or internationally.

This part of your post is critical.

If you're a drone operator, I wouldn't go holidaying in any of the countries you've been flying over, nor those with treaties of those countries.

US law - despite the craven attitude of the UK government - stops at the border.

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Baptist Trainfan
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This report produced jointly by the Baptists, Methgodists and URC a few years ago may be of interest.
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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
So it is US Law and is not, so far as I am aware, the subject of legal attack, nationally or internationally.

This part of your post is critical.

If you're a drone operator, I wouldn't go holidaying in any of the countries you've been flying over, nor those with treaties of those countries.

US law - despite the craven attitude of the UK government - stops at the border.

Don't get me wrong Doc. I really don't like the way unlawful enemy combatants can be classified and identified as targets. I don't like MCA 2006. I'm just trying to look at the legal question based on national and international laws as they are, not as I'd like them to be.

BTW Article 51, which I also referred to, is international; it is the self defence provision in the United Nations Charter. The UK used it in the Falklands War.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Does the use of drones contravene the laws of armed combat? I think that is probably a case by case issue, particularly over the steps taken to avoid harm to noncombatants.

Making this even more complicated and dubious is giving the CIA the authorization to kill people with drones. The CIA is a civilian agency and is not covered by "the laws of armed combat" or the UCMJ. The question of what is permissible when conducting a war seems out of place when applied to an entity that's not supposed to be waging war.

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Certainly recreational drones are fairly easy to buy. How long until the killing technology comes into a drone-deploying country?

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Barnabas62
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@ Croesos

Presumably it's military personnel who fly the drones, which remain military equipment? Strikes me as a pretty messy chain of command. I don't think the CIA can order a drone pilot to do anything his military rules of engagement wouldn't permit. If for example the authorisation involved high risk to civilians, the military pilot would be right to refer the authorisation up his normal chain of command. That's self preservation, not insubordination.

But in any case I agree the comment in the article. It should not be the CIA's job to authorise a drone strike.

[ 09. February 2018, 18:45: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Presumably it's military personnel who fly the drones, which remain military equipment? Strikes me as a pretty messy chain of command. I don't think the CIA can order a drone pilot to do anything his military rules of engagement wouldn't permit.

The issue seems to be that while the various US forces are invested in their large infrastructure they are less invested emotionally in drones - and so shortcuts are the order of the day.

Couple that with the Othering of large segments of the world ( http://www.newsweek.com/bugsplats-and-jackpots-us-military-drone-operators-enjoy-gamers-delight-667050 ) and you have a recipe for a situation where even if in theory minimizing civilian casualties is a goal, in practice things are more .. fuzzy.

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Barnabas62
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I think that's right, chris. The further downhill slide is a real risk.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
I think that's right, chris. The further downhill slide is a real risk.

I disagree, the downhill slide has already happened. The lack of checks and balances and the lack of an outcry is evidence enough - even if one misses the talking heads daily speaking about intervention and 'non-kinetic' in such antiseptic terms.

In the other thread you used examples for WWII - well at the point at which that war ended space opened up for reflection. The 'forever' nature of this 'war' means that the same thing can be put off indefinitely.

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Barnabas62
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You missed my 'further' I think. However likely we might see it to be, it's a risk until it happens.

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chris stiles
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If your family is dead, it's already happened.
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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
@ Croesos

Presumably it's military personnel who fly the drones, which remain military equipment?

Why would you presume that? The CIA has long had its own fleet of surveillance drones. Arming them is not that far a stretch, once someone has authorized it. Neither the Pentagon nor the CIA is willing to comment on the exact way drone operations are structured so this is largely speculative, but I'm not sure we can simply presume all armed U.S. drones are piloted by the U.S. military.

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Barnabas62
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It's the cheap solution, avoiding equipment duplication, additional staff, training costs and time, greater risks of operations going wrong because of inexperience.

But of course I could be wrong. Inter-agency rivalry, ambition etc could drive things in the other direction.

Anyway, those were the reasons for my presumption.

[ 09. February 2018, 19:32: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Doc Tor
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
BTW Article 51, which I also referred to, is international; it is the self defence provision in the United Nations Charter. The UK used it in the Falklands War.

Yes, but.

The idea that 'self defence' covers killing Abdul, the local Taliban fixer, in a street in a village in Waziristan, is really stretching matters. In effect, the US is doing what it wants, where it wants, in a way that is essentially terrorism by drone.

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Barnabas62
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PS to Croesos

Plus the psychology of blame delegation. If you subcontract the dirty work, you can take the credit if it goes right, dump on the subcontractors if it goes wrong.

[ 09. February 2018, 19:41: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
BTW Article 51, which I also referred to, is international; it is the self defence provision in the United Nations Charter. The UK used it in the Falklands War.

Yes, but.

The idea that 'self defence' covers killing Abdul, the local Taliban fixer, in a street in a village in Waziristan, is really stretching matters. In effect, the US is doing what it wants, where it wants, in a way that is essentially terrorism by drone.

I'm beginning to feel like a Jesuit! The argument just needs to be defensible. For all you and I know, Abdul may be a vital cog in a munitions supply chain, a recruiter of suicide bombers, etc, hiding his light under some routine bushel.

After all, we don't know, do we. It's classified, as is the source of information about Abdul.

Doc, of course it's a stretch to use the self defence provision. But it retains sufficient plausibility to get by.

[ 09. February 2018, 19:52: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Doc Tor
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It's defensible if you're the one pushing the button 1000 miles away, because you need it to be defensible. That's pretty much all that can be said about that argument.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
It's defensible if you're the one pushing the button 1000 miles away, because you need it to be defensible. That's pretty much all that can be said about that argument.

Exactly. The policy is based on the hope that this lethal harrying will at worst contain the terrorist threat, at best reduce it.

That might be a false hope. There might be a better approach. But what would it be?

[ 09. February 2018, 20:28: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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rolyn
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The war on terror was a blank cheque from the get-go and the continuation drone strikes 16 yrs later have been one of it’s purchases.
The public were enthralled by surgical weaponisation employed during Iraq war one of 1991. Drones are merely a extension of that tactic in the minds of most. Regardless of legality the general view is that drones kill baddies so what’s the problem.

Ethics and warfare never have been compatible bedfellows.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
I'm beginning to feel like a Jesuit! The argument just needs to be defensible. For all you and I know, Abdul may be a vital cog in a munitions supply chain, a recruiter of suicide bombers, etc, hiding his light under some routine bushel.

After all, we don't know, do we. It's classified, as is the source of information about Abdul.

.. we also know that in a significant number of cases, even the intelligence doesn't claim that Abdul is a vital cog, it just claims he may possibly look like a vital cog. Using a set of measures of embedded inside some data processing software which frequently just embeds its creators own prejudices.
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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
Certainly recreational drones are fairly easy to buy. How long until the killing technology comes into a drone-deploying country?

Military drones are a different level to recreational or commercial drones. So, Reaper level capability is not likely any-time soon.
Commercial drones are expensive and regulated. However, building a drone isn't exactly rocket surgery.
Commercial drones can certainly carry enough a payload to cause as much damage as the average terrorist strike.
However, so can a person. And a car or van so much more.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
It's defensible if you're the one pushing the button 1000 miles away, because you need it to be defensible. That's pretty much all that can be said about that argument.

Exactly. The policy is based on the hope that this lethal harrying will at worst contain the terrorist threat, at best reduce it.

That might be a false hope. There might be a better approach. But what would it be?

It is a false hope. The targets (and collateral) will be as dead if they were killed by a soldier, a jet fighter or a drone. But, to the people surviving, they are different things with different psychological impact. What drones save in operator lives now, they cost later in extended conflict.
The idea that terrorism can be conquered by causing terror is ridiculous in the extreme.

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
BTW Article 51, which I also referred to, is international; it is the self defence provision in the United Nations Charter. The UK used it in the Falklands War.

Yes, but.

The idea that 'self defence' covers killing Abdul, the local Taliban fixer, in a street in a village in Waziristan, is really stretching matters. In effect, the US is doing what it wants, where it wants, in a way that is essentially terrorism by drone.

Taking out enemy combatants (and their collateral neighbours' kids), including 'traitors' with the same passport you have, isn't terrorism.

And no I don't approve of any of it. The real alternative is infinitely too radical for all concerned however. Is as politically impossible as gun control in America.

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Gramps49
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Point of fact, even ISIL and the Taliban have used drones. The basic technology is not that secret. To be sure, there are advanced technologies, such as piloting systems and ordinance systems that can be secret. But just lose one over hostile territory, such as the US losing one over Iran a few years ago, and all bets are off.

Under the Just War Scenario, it is better to kill one, or even a few, than to have many killed by the one who was targeted.

The United States admits it has killed at least six Americans. Only one was specifically targeted. He was the one that tried to blow up a plane over Detriot, he made the bomb that fizzled when the underwear bomber tried to trigger it. He was also experimenting with other ways to bring bonbs on planes.

However, it does say the others were righteous for various reasons. There is one kill that has been challenged. It was the death of a sixteen-year-old boy who was with his father when they were both killed.

I am not sure of the Trump numbers, but the Obama administration claimed they were responsible for only 200 collateral deaths, but in truth, it may have been several thousand. They fudged the numbers by saying those who were killed in the bombing were combatants even though there was no way to prove it. One way they have used to target militants is to target one individual first and then launch another missile at the people who rush in to attempt a rescue. (This gives me a nasty taste.)

What they have found is even though the pilots of drones may be thousands of miles away, they do suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. I know of one instance where the pilot had been observing a house of a suspected terrorist for quite a long time. He was waiting to launch a missile at the house, but he wanted to be sure the family members of the terrorist were out of the house. The time came when he observed a woman with four children leaving the house. Once the pilot got permission to launch he did, but as the missile was streaking to the house, he observed one of the children turn and go back into it. Now that would mess any normal person up.

Let's say there is a person that we want to take out. What are the alternatives?

Well, there is high altitude carpet bombing? But that assumes the person is not on the move. The downside is carpet bombing will destroy everything along a certain path. And even then the person may survive the attack.

Then there is the use of cruise missiles which can be launched some distance away. But you have to assume the target is not moving. Clinton launched a Tomahawk missile at a training camp that Osama Bin Laden was assumed to be at; but, by the time the missile reached the target, Bin Laden had left the area.

Okay, a single, close-in, air strike. Remember that while the target may be on the move, say in a convey, that pilot is coming in at well over 500 mph, trying to avoid any defensive measures, and may only have just a second over the target.

Helicopters are not much better because they will definitely be avoiding defensive measures.

How about an artillery strike? Well, you need to be able to pinpoint the target, usually through some observation platform--a person on the ground, or a drone in the area. But usually, an artillery strike entails a range shot, then a full barrage once the target range is found.

The other alternative would be a sniper team going in. These are small teams at least two, a spotter and a shooter. Usually no more than a platoon. Usually very accurate and nearly nil collateral damage. But there is the logistics of insertion and then extraction.

Of all possibilities, a drone strike has many advantages. The drone can stay on target for quite a long time, gathering intelligence, waiting for the ideal time to launch. Once launched, the missile is laser guided. It also involves the least risk for personnel, and in the overall scheme of things, it is the least expensive.

In the end war is hell. Ideally, you try to kill the least number of people

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Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:

Ethics and warfare never have been compatible bedfellows.

Not sure about that.

Our tradition is one of seeking to agree "rules of war" to make it less hellish.

And although in the heat of the moment those rules may often be broken, the existence of the rules means that once the dust has settled, there's some basis for repentance, apology, possibly even compensation. And for moral pressure to be exerted on the offending power by the community of nations.

Isn't one of the issues here that the traditional rules assume functioning nation states with a monopoly of military-grade force ? So that if North Ruritanians are committing acts of war against South Ruritania, the remedy is for South Ruritania and its allies to declare war upon North Ruritania and make war until that country is persuaded to desist from such acts.

Which doesn't work in the case of "failed states".

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Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
The policy is based on the hope that this lethal harrying will at worst contain the terrorist threat, at best reduce it.

That might be a false hope. There might be a better approach. But what would it be?

It is a false hope.
Now here, as a tangent to the thread, is a huge topic.

Personally, I'm persuaded by the discussions here that drone strikes are, at best, of dubious legality, And signature strikes seem especially dubious.

But the tangential argument is this one. How effective are they? Indeed, how effective has the whole war on terror been?

There is an old military saying. 'We must do something. This is something. So !et's do this'.

Of course the major issue with the war on terror is that, unlike a war on a nation state, there is no obvious ending, in military victory, or defeat, or peace agreement. Terrorism is a hydra headed monster. Chop off one head and another springs up.

I think the argument that drone strikes are effective for the domestic market is quite powerful. 'We are doing something'. It's relatively financially inexpensive, it does not put US military lives at risk, it kills some of the bad guys, so it can be easily presented as making progress. The fact that it is morally and legally dubious can be glossed.

The deeper question, whether the current policy is helping to achieve the strategic objective of eradicating terrorism, doesn't really seem to have been much explored, in any real depth.

'Without objectives, you cannot fail'. So what are the objectives and how can they be measured? A reduction in terrorist attacks? A reduction in recruitment to terrorist causes? Damage to the capability of specific terrorist groups to carry out acts of terror? Reduction in the number of supportive nations? More effective preventative security and intelligence measures? Foreign policy modifications aimed at reducing the attractiveness of terrorist causes? Add your own ideas to the list, these are just a few that occur to me.

Once we start looking at these kinds of objectives, we realise that the current policy contains very little to guide thinking about how such objectives are to be measured, or assessed, or prioritised.

Which essentially is why I'm questioning effectiveness while lilBuddha is denying it. There is no real public agreement, of even much discussion, about measurable objectives and priorities. War has been declared against terror without any clear ideas, not just about winning it, but what winning actually means.

Short version. Sixteen years after 9/11, I still cannot see that the war on terror, which has led to drone strikes, is a coherent, worked out policy, rather than a series of reactions to murderous intentions and actions.

Now I may be wrong here. Maybe US and allied policies are better worked out than they look? Have any of you seen anything to suggest that they are?

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Callan
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President Sarkoff, in Blake's 7 once observed:

quote:
Assassination has always been a legitimate tool of statecraft. Its respectability and public acceptance has varied from civilization to civilization, but its practical application has remained remarkably consistent.
Back in the old days assassination came with some risks. You either had to find an assassin who was prepared to die in the course of the assassination, or you had to find a professional who could get it done with a reasonable expectation of getting out alive. With the establishment of the nation state the latter tended to be members of the intelligence services or the armed forces. This restricted the use of assassination because a hit that went wrong could have all sorts of unfortunate implications. The last thing any government wanted was a member of the intelligence service making a public confession and singing like a canary about anything else the survivor wanted to know about. Nor would a government want to discover that they had, inadvertently, sent a bunch of war heroes to their deaths. Those of us who admire President Obama's sang-froid, particularly remember the White House Correspondents Dinner where he poked fun at Donald Trump knowing that he could have had a Jimmy Carter type catastrophe on his hands when he got back to the White House. Fortunately, the monkey's paw did it's work and Osama Bin Laden was no more. Now the fun thing about drones is that none of those constraints apply. Before the order to get Bin Laden was given there would have been a shed load of analysis of the relevant information because the last thing anyone wanted was a dead bunch of Navy Seals and Bin Laden putting out a video mocking the decadent west. The watchword is always going to be caution. Drones change that. Sending in Navy Seals means that your target is always going to be sufficiently impressive to be worth whacking. Drones mean that you can go after some minor league fixer on the grounds that it disrupts the terrorists plan of campaign. Assassination no longer becomes exceptional, it becomes routine and mundane.

I am reminded of the member of the US Government who suggested that the key to setting off the US nuclear armoury ought to be implanted in a member of the Secret Service. The US President would be equipped with a knife and would have to retrieve the implant before blowing up the world. This was objected to, unironically, that the President's unwillingness to murder a member of his coterie might dissuade him from blowing up the world. The practical, pre-drone, limits to killing people made it a matter of the last resort. Post drone, anything goes. Luckily, thus far, the US has not elected an unprincipled narcissist to the highest off... OH.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by Callan:
Before the order to get Bin Laden was given there would have been a shed load of analysis of the relevant information because the last thing anyone wanted was a dead bunch of Navy Seals and Bin Laden putting out a video mocking the decadent west. The watchword is always going to be caution. Drones change that. Sending in Navy Seals means that your target is always going to be sufficiently impressive to be worth whacking. Drones mean that you can go after some minor league fixer on the grounds that it disrupts the terrorists plan of campaign. Assassination no longer becomes exceptional, it becomes routine and mundane.

/snip/

The practical, pre-drone, limits to killing people made it a matter of the last resort. Post drone, anything goes. Luckily, thus far, the US has not elected an unprincipled narcissist to the highest off... OH.

Spot on.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

Which essentially is why I'm questioning effectiveness while lilBuddha is denying it. There is no real public agreement, of even much discussion, about measurable objectives and priorities.

Terrorist recruitment videos feature drone strikes. So, there is that.

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Barnabas62
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Sure. But that''s just one factor. My point was that there are many factors which might be used to assess success in the war on terror.

As it happens, my opinion is close to yours, that behaviour which encourages recruitment is probably a major losing factor, since it encourages the hydra headed monster. But we don't have the data to look at these things more objectively i.e. if a process which degrades the terrorist capability also aids recruitment, where does the balance of advantage lie?

That's an example of the general point I was trying to make. Who, if anyone, is trying to work these things out?

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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...war on terror...

it isn't that.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

That's an example of the general point I was trying to make. Who, if anyone, is trying to work these things out?

I'm not sure anyone actually is. Not on the policy-making side, anyway.
It is a massive problem with many factors, some of which are not convenient to address.
Where is terrorism funded? Saudi Arabia has been, and continues to be, a major source. The 911 terrorists were almost all Saudi. Wahhabi groups from Saudi Arabia fund madrassas (often in poor/struggling countries) that teach extremism.
This is a very inconvenient truth. One that is not an easy problem to fix.
But the current "solution" isn't a solution at all.
Attacking terrorists is like catching bullets after they have been fired.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:

But the current "solution" isn't a solution at all.
Attacking terrorists is like catching bullets after they have been fired.

That''s pretty much how it feels to me. I'm just not sure feelings are enough.

quote:
Originally posted by no prophet ...:
...war on terror...

it isn't that.

It's what George Bush labelled it. You can call it whatever you like, really. It's a long running conflict between the US and terrorists, isn't it? And not just the US. I don't mind if you don't think it' a proper war, for example. It isn't a war in the traditional meaning of that word.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:

But the current "solution" isn't a solution at all.
Attacking terrorists is like catching bullets after they have been fired.

That''s pretty much how it feels to me. I'm just not sure feelings are enough.
What you want is the equivalent of a clear economic strategy. They do not, and cannot exist. The factors of how an economy works are broad and complex and fixing problems isn't easy or simple.
The same can be said for any complex and enduring problem.
One thing is clear: Current strategy isn't working. It is well past time to explore another.

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I put on my rockin' shoes in the morning
Hallellou, hallellou

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