Terry's Rant....

Terry McKenna

Terry McKenna
Dover, New Jersey, USA
July 20
Conservative in the Burkean sense. Little tolerance for fools, less for liars (though I regularly vote for them).


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FEBRUARY 10, 2013 10:00AM

Drones – a Time Bomb - Blowback Will Come Again

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All policy choices come with a downside risk.  For example, our post WW2 attempt to foster global free trade ended up empowering competitors and led to the decline of much US manufacturing, even as we remain a manufacturing nation.   Of course, it was unreasonable to expect that the party would go on forever, after all, in 1945 we were the world’s leader in most manufacturing, with an undamaged industrial base.  As prosperity returned to Western Europe and Japan it was natural that we would lose market share.  And then the third world stepped in to take heavy manufacturing as well as the manufacturing of low value items of all sorts.  

And remember the decision to build the interstate highway system?  It was a great idea, that was started partly in response to the threat of nuclear attack.  We suddenly needed a way to quickly evacuate cities in the event of a war.  States added their own highway systems and as highways began to surround cities and towns, urban centers began to decay as middle class families moved to the suburbs and took their shopping dollars and tax payments with them.

That decisions have unintended consequences is well known and inevitable.   Change is inevitable in any case, so decisions are made and the future emerges with all its surprises, but once it a while we ought to anticipate the downside risk.  For example, we should have imagined that when the US intervened in the affairs of other nations, that it might bite us in the back some day.  Thus the enmity of many in Central and South America should have been anticipated – highlighted by Venezuela and Cuba.  So too the enmity of Iranians after we installed the Shah.   And remember our gloating when the cold war ended.  That was bad enough, but then we proceeded to add Russia’s neighbors to NATO, as if we were running up the score on a football game with an overmatched opponent.  Did we think we would never need Russia again?  Well we do.  When world affairs get complicated, it is Russia we need, not Slovenia, Slovakia or Poland – as we have found out with regard both to Iran, who nuclear ambitions we want to contain, and with regard to Syria. 

The Russians are historically ambivalent about the west and suspicious of our motives in any case, but after we spent the 1990s rubbing their noses in it, we should have guessed that eventually it would come back to us.  And it has.  Hence even as Syria collapses, Russia remain aloof to our desire to end the Assad government (of course there is no real alternative either).  And Russia does all it can to subvert the West’s embaro of Iran. 

Ok, so now we have drone warfare.  A no brainer on the face of it, after all, no US soldiers need to die.

And there has been a flurry of outrage, but about a really minor issue – the killing of a few Americans whose demise took away their right to a day in court.*   Oddly, few US news sources note the many killed who are innocent, or if not innocent, are hardly a serious threat to us.  The real harm comes to the way drone strikes have converted Pakistanis and Yemenis from being merely hateful of the US to hating us with an urgency and venom that will keep the fires of terrorism burning bright.  Yes, the Muslims grown lots of restless angry young men.  Out continued attacks give them the motivation that they need to strike back at us.  And over time, a few of them are bound to get through.

The lesson of 9/11 was not about freedom vs terror, it was about blowback.  We still haven’t grasped this.

*I am not unaware of the legalities.  But in the scheme of things, the numbers of US citizens killed in nothing in comparison to the real downside risk from increased terrorism. 


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big story, blowback, drone, war.

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I am ambivalent on drones. What you say is true: we are fostering hatred in the Muslim world; on the other hand, presumably we have taken down some really bad people who, had we not, might have come back to haunt us as well. Solid and cogent analysis. R
I am too. I don't really mind the killing of enemies, and even the low level ones are that. Still, I thing the current verbiage is focusing on the small stuff. The really larger issue is are we getting anywhere?

And I still remain convinced that we drew no lessons from 9/11.
Lots of good thoughts, Terry.

Unfortunately, in a world as complicated as ours, sometimes there are no answers that will not result in serious negative consequences.

For the most part, I think the people making decisions try to make what, at the moment the decision is being made, makes the most sense.

For every decision we have regretted because of "unintended consequences"...the alternate decision probably would have evoked an equally regrettable unintended consequence...and in some instances, and even more regrettable consequence.

I hope most of the decisions being made work out better than what the alternative would have...but of course there is no way to know that. I try to stay away from armchair quarterbacking for that reason.
Enjoyed the read, thanks.

I agree with Frank that non-action or alternative action may result in greater consequences.

Using the 1950s-1970s build-up of nuclear warheads as an example, one of my Philosophy teachers in college (30 years ago) said "what's the point?" We can already destroy the world a few times over with ___ warheads, why build more?

My response to him at the time was because technology could eventually negate the deterrent affect of "a few" nuclear warheads; as such, we needed to be at parity (or greater) with Russia "just in case".

Although I don't disagree that there's downsides on the world stage to drone-targeting, I think it does cut down (a great deal!) on open-recruitment/training/etc. of enemy-combatants because they never know when ...
Hi, Terry. We've not met before, but I am really happy I was skimming the feed this morning and found this post. I have been struggling, trying to decide how I really feel about this issue, which is quite unusual for me. A friend of mine taught me recently that it is always wise to ask two questions whenever faced with a decision: 1)What happens if we do? and 2) What happens if we don't?

You have managed to answer these two questions well enough in this post to bring me to the conclusion that this is a damned-if-we-do-damned-if-we-don't kind of issue. Blowback will always be a consequence, because, perhaps for the first time, America cannot delude itself into believing we know all the answers to everything.

Great post!

Blowback...I agree we do not want to fan the fires. Why do they hate us so much? So many answers to that question. Good post. Thanks.
Oh, it's simple. President Jesus is killing all the bad guys for us and anyone else who dies along the way is OK because it's "war". We're doing God's work, there will be no blowback. Go back to sleep now.
There have been 5000 victims of drones. How many have been innocent civilians? Way conservative estimate has been over 17%. What if that number of Americans we were shrugging off as collateral damage? Far too many to justify the use of them.

They are violating international law. Flying across borders to sovereign nations to kill.

50 countries are developing drone technology and will soon be able to crowd the skies searching out their own victims, maybe on US soil, and what will happen as civilian "mistakes" are made then since the US has role modeled arrogantly for the world this kind of warfare.

The corporate ruling class wants perpetual war (and our militaristic devastations are guaranteeing that) since it is profitable for them and they are desperate for money and resources of other countries, to simply TAKE them because they have captured the military of the US to use troops as cannon fodder for profiteering, and we are in debt to China big time but if China is our declared enemy that may be how a dishonorable country gets out of its debt with another big country like us uses intimidation with proxy wars creeping toward a direct war even and hang humanity and our economic responsibility to repay what we borrowed and not jeopardize hundreds of thousands of lives to weasel out of it?

With the insane cruelty of multiple deployments and having burned out the volunteer army with "hamburger hills" that got so many wounded physically and psychologically, with the epidemic of suicides from the horrors (not to mention the troops that were involved in Bush's and probably still Obama's secret detention/torture regime) of being up close and witnessing and perpetrating death and destruction on so many innocent peoples trying to live their lives. Though now opening the doors of military to women more fully (considering epidemic of sexual abuse in military) and the LGBT community as well as poverty-stricken kids to sign up for military employment since so few jobs at home and faux-patriotic glamour and travel for MORE CANNON FODDER.

And all the secrecy of the drones and the kills. Brennan lied and said no civilian deaths in a year in Pakistan. He lied BIG. Feinstein said drone deaths in Pakistan were in the single digits. More BIG lies. Big media won't dwell on this stuff since they are cronied up with big business and government.

Evil genies keep getting let out of the bottle by the U.S. And diplomacy and respect for international law and Geneva Conventions is ignored by our government. UNETHICALLY AS WELL AS STUPIDLY CONSIDERING THE BLOWBACK AND BOTTOM LINE AMORALITY. Obama made a speech about reaching out to Iran and then threats and sanctions that destroy the civilian population, especially the kids and the elderly. Tightening the screws and justifying such mass cruelty and destruction justified as eventually the heads of government in Iran will get the message (so who cares how many thousands of innocents die waiting?) and if the weakened country surrenders finally from hunger and poverty then they can exist under the thumb of the US and its sociopathic corporate class and fellow pirating NATO and friend countries running things or more likely letting jihadist war lords duke it out once the country's resources have been plundered and making repressive fundamentalist laws make people live under horrifying draconian misogynistic rules.

Who cares any more in the powerful and faux-CIVILIZED marauding big countries? They raped the resources and treasury. NEXT!!!

Hillary I have been reading about -- what she (and Obama allowed) managed to do with poor Honduras, alone, at the beginning of Obama's term. US enabled the fascistic elite there to get rid of Zelayas. What an ugly fiasco that was. No biggie for US media. Shhhhhhh.

Does it not bother people that we are not helping countries that are trying to offer freedom to their peoples, but oppressive countries that are doing the opposite?

And when we do lie that we are becoming involved for "humanitarian intervention" (yeah, like enabling al-Qaeda in Libya whom we had been fighting in Afghan and Iraq) for regime change for corporate profiteering and military strategic power and the quality of life for the civilian and secular Libyans, say, is totally decimated, we loot their resources and their treasury and go on to the next regime change leaving the people's lives there permanently disabled.

I am so glad so few Americans don't lose any sleep or fret their consciences about the misery the US is causing across the globe to OTHER PEOPLES. American exceptionalism hasn't lost its grip, it seems.

Especially among so many of the good people of open salon.

Yes, blowback is a serious factor from the insanity Bush and Obama have perpetrated misusing the military to our lives here in the United States AS WELL.

I'm thinking non-American lives matter, too. And have mattered.

The drone. Torture. Morally wrong. Evil. To us, the hapless Americans who aren't making evil decisions to kill for profit maybe but whose tax dollars are going for drone building and military upkeep. And who are playing ostriches on the wrong side of history. Who let whistleblowers twist in the wind trying to call out the evil our government and corporatists are doing.

Our lives and/or definitely our descendants lives will suffer from so much of our present ignorance, denial, lack of conscience and action. Blind cronyism to our political team when both teams have betrayed America and the world.

That is if we don't destroy the planet before our descendants get to have lives. That will take a team effort among countries, but not in the midst of perpetual wars and greed orgies.

Have a nice day.

best, libby
ps last comment of mine, I meant it will take a TEAM effort NOT to allow our planet to be destroyed (but that seems not to be on the agenda for the marauding US and its marauding allies). libby
Hey Libby, when you make a bold statement like "There have been 5000 victims of drones" as the leading sentence in your comment, can you provide a citation or something, so readers can decide whether that number is credible/verifiable/real/made-up.
Lezlie sent me here. Great post.

Yes, I would expect blowback, and 9/11 might be classified as blowback.

That being said: That doesn't make all blowback ethical, just predictable, 9/11 being a great example. What angered Bin Laden, from what I've read, was the presence of US troops on sacred Saudi soil during Desert Storm, even though we were there by permission - in fact, possibly by invitation - of the Saudi government.

Sometimes there isn't blowback, you'd just expect there to be. The Iranian people have precious little to do with our problems with their government. In fact, when 9/11 happened, I saw in a news report at the time (buried in a hurry) that there were spontaneous protests on the streets of Tehran - in Support of America! Just after that, Bush referred to them as one end of the Axis of Evil, taking what good will there was and squandering it completely.

The closest we've ever seen to an administration that doesn't behave like this reflexively was probably Carter. I have my differences with him since but I will always respect that human rights actually mattered to him as President, and the fact that he pushed them internationally mattered internationally.

All in all, I agree about blowback though. I screamingly agree about Russia and have said so elsewhere - how we've treated Russia has been unbelievably stupid, and for no good reason.

You're also really right about how all that attention on the couple of American citizens killed is misplaced - I'd worry about the other deaths first.
Good Points Terry! Obama built on Bush's national security tactics with Drones. As Author & Journalist, James Baniford said, "Obama doesn't look like a Cowboy".
Just because Drone use has increased by Obama - doesn't mean that it is Wrong - it means it was Necessary.

And just because Bin Laden is dead doesn't mean the War on Terror is over.

What do Americans want? Get rid of those nasty-immoral Drones OR personally decide where & who gets targeted - including a guarantee of no innocent bystanders? R
american 'progressives' like to write in a vein of participation in the political life of the nation. so here, where the case is offered that drone bombs are storing up hatred that may well result in a '9/11' level retribution.

but who cares?

the people who make the drone policy, and much else, will not be struck by retribution. very likely, if it comes all will be dead, certainly long retired and dispersed to their country estates. american 'progressives' are not consulted about american policy, they generally don't know what it is until something 'goes wrong' and the light shines.

meanwhile, politicians and bureaucrats further their careers with activities which may well have disastrous consequences for the people of the usa. the drones may be a trivial matter, compared to the utilization of fracking and shale oil extraction, for a likely example.

leaving the fate of the usa, and the world, in the hands of people you would not trust in the unguarded presence of a minor child or a 100 dollar bill is insanity. well, it would be, if you were given the choice. as you are born into '2nd classdom' perhaps the situation is better ascribed as natural selection, the submission throughout the primate tribes of the gamma to the alpha male.
The real blowback risk is that in 20 years, every country will have drones.

Defending against them will be at the minimum extremely expensive and worst case, simply not possible.

These things aren't ICBM's ..... they are tricked out model airplanes.

Talk about enabling asymmetrical warfare. Yikes.
Right now the drones are little flying machines. But drones come in all flavors. They can fly, walk, swim, wiggle through sewers and crawl up your ass. If you think technological capability is the sole property of the USA you have no idea how perpetual warfare can inspire how pissed off the world can get. Right now the USA is whooping for joy over its little toys and the dumb bastards that are playing video games with real people but when the drones start to burrow under oil refineries, shit poisons in the water supply, cut communication cables, blow up atomic power reactors, maybe the USA will start thinking twice about initiating perpetual undeclared war on the whole world in order to grab oil and other resources. The most technologically developed countries are the most vulnerable and all those third world countries where wives and husbands and kids are splatted (accidentally, of course) are well supplied with nerds who can convert smart phones into all sort of malignancies that can invade the USA in all sorts of interesting ways. Looking into grandma's underwear cannot stop them all. And they wont just bite your ass, they'll kill as indiscriminately as our drones do today but on a much huger scale and life throughout the world will become a living hell.
For some people life already is a living hell...and always will be.

Kind of a built-in paradox, though. Some people conceive of life as a living hell only because the only thing that truly satisfies them...is to be living a life of "a living hell."
And some people are so dumb they think hell is heaven.