"Suspected US drone kills Suspected Taliban Commander." That's becoming the stuff of very suspect news stories. The reporting is so weak there's almost nothing confirmed except that the killer operator is far away in front of a computer screen somewhere.
Suspected killing of suspected people by suspected killers covered by unsuspicious media? It would be sci-fi if it weren't so damn here-now. And it's only going to get more so.
The Democratic administration made a big deal recently of cutting the cumbersome F-22 fighter jet -- we don't need it any more said the President. What he didn’t say is that the defense department is seeking $3.5 billion for unmanned aerial vehicles. Funding is expected to increase to $55 billion by 2020. The air force is currently training more drone operators than fighter and bomber pilots.
Drones have been around since the US led NATO war in the former Yugoslavia. Since 06, drones have launched hundred of missiles along the Afghanistan Pakistan border kllilng as many as 700 civilians according to Pakistani officials.
Forbes magazine's “king of the armed drone makers” is a little known company called General Atomics whose founder James Neal Blue came up with the drone as a way of defeating Soviet-backed Sandinistas by blowing up oil pipelines in Nicaragua. He’s a fervent anti-communist and quite possibly the next Erik Prince -- only his mercenaries aren't Blackwater's flesh and blood killers, but conveniently inanimate machines, more expensive up front, but safer politically.
General Atomics is small by defense industry standards, but it has a lot of friends in Washington. Between 2000 and 2005, GA was the top corporate sponsor of privately funded congressional travel. So perhaps no surprise, there’s little resistance to more drones in the US arsenal.
They're not cheap -- between $10 million and $12 million apiece per GA Reaper -- Their success rate is disputed, they kill civilians and even General David Petraeaus says they make people hate us.
But President Obama has a problem. Every American military commanders wants more troops but maybe, someday, the president's anti-war base will get restive.
How to heed the commanders and quiet the critics? Welcome to the super drone bonanza. The pilotless drone is the military's version of cash for very clunky policy.