William Saletan wrote an interesting (and unusually straightforward) piece on automated drones policing the skies of countries that find themselves on the receiving end of American imperialism. I think this kind of commentary is merited, especially when most people try and spin new technological advances as bringing on the end of days or as the greatest thing to happen (though usually the former).
Drones are the future of warfare. The tactical reason is that they don’t bleed. They let us hunt enemies abroad at no risk to ourselves. The political reason is slightly different: They spare us the difficulties of an official troop presence. Pakistan’s government doesn’t have to approve or explain our incursion into northwest Pakistan on Sunday night, because, strictly speaking, we weren’t there.
I think that American imperialism is here, for better or for worse. Of course this will all depend on the price of oil and the ability for the military-industrial complex to stave off a recession. However from a strategic perspective this technology is perfection of an age-old (British) goal: let colonies take charge of their own administration, so long as they do not harm American interests. Pakistan can retain its sovereignty by playing ignorant, and the American government can continue to target terrorist suspects without any real constraints.
I’m of the opinion that the State Department and the military are really not so smart as they are played out to be. Most people see the United States as a purely rational entity, pursuing its own interests (would this were true). Hopefully the ineptitude of the Bush administration will be countered by the ability of technology and a technocracy to stabilize unruly nations and hurt the U.S.’s enemies abroad. The only thing that remains to be seen is if this technological advance in weaponry and surveillance will be matched by a similar advance in intelligence-gathering and organization in the C.I.A.