Drones and Our Israel Op-Ed

Apparently drones bring forth a lot of emotion and strong opinion.   Here is my response to some of those who have questioned the drone example in the Lexington Herald-Leader op-ed.

Many drones are used for surveillance purposes, but drones are also used for attacks:  e.g. General Atomics MQ-1 Predators with Hellfire missiles (which have successfully killed a number of al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives, among others); and now the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper.  I think that these weapons are just the beginning, and war will be fought increasingly virtually.  No question that this presents moral problems, but we cannot avoid questions by just saying “No.”  That’s not going to happen, nor should it.  In my view, drones save lives.  Strategic, tactical, and fighter bombers have a much greater likelihood of dropping their loads in the wrong places (in spite of major improvements in accuracy).  Ballistic missiles and artillery are not better.  Infantry operations can be even more dangerous for civilians.

The larger question is:  When military action is necessary, how do we have successful operations and minimize the killing of civilians?  The emotions that drones induce have more do with symbolism and PR than with actual facts on the ground.

I believe that drone technology is helpful overall, because it saves US and Coalition lives and because killing of civilians is less likely (even though it still tragically occurs). War has always been characterized by awful, hideous events.  Drones are not the reason they happen.  Nor do drones fuel insurgencies in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.  Problems existed in those countries long before drones.  Americans seem to think that we have this great influence on the world and that we are the main drivers of events–it’s a kind of imperialism that exists on both the right and the left.  But people all over the world have their own motivations and reasons for doing what they do that have nothing to do with the US or with Israel.  There are independent actors, and we don’t pull everybody’s strings.

Drone technology is simply one concrete illustration of military cooperation and research.  However, one could also pint to other military items that the Israelis have developed (or helped to develop) that the US employs:  Python missiles, Gabriel missiles, SMAW anti-tank guided missiles, Simon breach grenades, Samson Remote Control Weapons Stations, etc.  Of course, Israel also uses US weapons:  F15s and F16s, transport planes, Apache attack helicopters, transport helicopters, howitzers, missiles (including Hellfire, Maverick, Sidewinder, and Stinger) and now the Arrow Missile Defense System, among others.  The US military clearly understands Israeli weapons research as a major strategic advantage for the US, and the Israelis naturally know the importance of US weapons for them.  The relationship is symbiotic and a part of our economy–even though I would love to see a time when the need for this is greatly reduced.

The question is not drones.  The question is military action in general.  I agree that not every time is a military option the best option.  In my view, both the US and Israel have sometimes forgotten this.  Still military elements are a crucial part of self-defense.  Without them, Israel would be annihilated and Jews slaughtered. In other locations, projecting military strength is required (even though the US might sometimes overplay its hand).  Having weapons is often more powerful than using them, but that is only the case when at least occasionally we do use them.

UPDATE:  On March 1, 2011, the IDF employed a new, defensive weapon, called the Trophy active protection system, designed to protect tanks from missiles.   This is a significant upgrade for tank and armored car protection.  During the Lebanon war, Israeli tanks suffered damage from hand-held, rocket-propelled grenades.  The Israelis designed this system, and it will undoubtedly become important for the U.S. military as well.  There is further similar technology in the pipeline as well.

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Editorials/Article.aspx?id=210540

See our op-ed: http://mysticscholar.org/2011/02/22/aid-to-israel-protects-us-interests/

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DR. LAURENCE H. KANT (LARRY KANT), MYSTIC SCHOLAR: Engaged Mysticism and Scholarship in the Pursuit of Wisdom; Discovering meaning in every issue and facet of life; Integrating scholarship, spirituality, mysticism, poetry, community, economics, and politics seamlessly. Historian of Religion: Ph.D., Yale University, 1993 (Department of Religious Studies); Exchange Scholar, Harvard University, Rabbinics, 1983-84; M.A., 1982, Yale, 1982 (Department of Religious Studies); M.T.S., Harvard Divinity School, 1981; B.A., Classics (Greek and Latin), Tufts University, 1978; Wayland High School (Wayland, MA), 1974. Served on the faculty of Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), York University (Toronto), and Lexington Theological Seminary (Lexington, KY). Works in many languages: Ancient Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, English, French, Italian, German, Modern Greek (some Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish). Holder of numerous honors and awards, including The Rome Prize in Classics (Prix de Rome) and Fellow of the American Academy of Rome.
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