Each iteration of the “War on Terror” has depended on secrecy for success. As long as the strategy remained under wraps, the politicians were able to pretend that they were “doing something” about terrorism. Thus it will be with drones. The US advertises that it is the most effective of weapons against terrorism. Perhaps, instead, we will learn that it provokes far more extremism than it eliminates.

Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, is setting out on an expedition to discover how drone strikes are affecting the 800,000-strong population of Waziristan, Pakistan

For the first time the US Air Force is training more drone pilots than actual pilots. As The Times reported yesterday, the US will retire 123 manned fighters next year but add more than twice as many drones to its fleet. The plan is to introduce thousands more over the next four decades until pilotless planes do everything piloted ones do now.

The Times's Giles Whittell chronicles the demise of Top Gun

Drones are that bit scarier because they’re robots | James Dean

What is it about a drone that makes it more scary than, say, the mean-looking brute that is the Apache helicopter gunship? You could, arguably, do more collateral damage with the latter.

Amid the arguments about the ethics of drone warfare, one thing struck me: perhaps we’re scared of drones because they’re robots. Robots controlled by humans rather than artificially intelligent automatons, but essentially, the piece of kit that is the “drone” contains no brain cells.

Drones shoot Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. So do Apaches. Once the missile is launched, it is guided to its target by the pilot – be they hovering overhead or sat in an office chair in Langley.

Surely, then, if they are given the exact same mission, a successful (unpiloted) drone strike is as ethically (un)sound as a successful (piloted) Apache strike. Isn’t it?

Twitter: @jamesdean_lives

Read more: The limited justifications for remote control warfare, by the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald

David Axe in Animal New York on the age of the drone: “Imagine police drones patrolling at treetop level down city streets, their cameras scanning crowds for weapons or suspicious activity. ‘Newsbots’ might follow in their wake, streaming live video of the goings-on. Drones belonging to protest groups hover over both, watching the watchers. In nearby zip codes, drones belonging to real estate agents scope out hot properties. Robots deliver pizzas by following the signal from customers’ cell phones. Meanwhile, anti-drone ‘freedom fighters,’ alarmed by the spread of cheap, easy overhead surveillance, take potshots at the robots with rifles and shotguns.”

Timothy Snyder in The New York Review of Books on the siege of Leningrad

The real Wire: how Baltimore police and prosecutors manipulate statistics to bring down the murder rate by David Simon on his personal blog, The Audacity of Despair

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee tells the story of Harold Nicholson, the most senior CIA officer ever convicted of spying. He passed his “vocation” on to his son

Compiled by @TomasRuta

Columns - Wednesday June 13, 2012

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