Okay, he admits that "by themselves, naval rivalries do not start wars," so the drones are not really the source of the problem. What is really the problem, apparently, is that China and the United States are not allies, and that if "the slender reed" of economics that binds us together should snap, then look out!
Of course, this would be true whether or not the United States possesses drones. But does Parker really mean to suggest that the Pacific region would be more stable, and that would we be more secure, if we allowed China to develop advanced weapons systems without developing countermeasures such as drones? Isn't it just as likely that increased drone capabilities might as a deterrent to potential aggression much in the same way that nuclear weapons did in the Cold War?
|The X-47B "Unmanned Combat Air System" (a.k.a. stealth drone) aboard the USS Truman.|
Also, last week in Foreign Policy Micah Zenko outlined countries in which the United States has "outsourced" targeted killing campaigns to allied indigenous forces, and argues that "the United States should ultimately be accountable" if they do something wrong with the intelligence, training, or weapons provided. Okay . . . but how, and who? If a force trained by our Special Forces and provided intelligence on a village by say, an enlisted intelligence analyst, that is believed to be hosting an al-Qa'ida leadership meeting, and then the foreign troops subsequently execute a kill/capture mission in a village utilizing poor fire discipline, killing innocent civilians, who would Zenko court martial? On a policymaking level, Congress can obviously end authorization/funding for any "Building Partnership Capacity" initiative that goes awry, but will the end of U.S. involvement end the underlying conflict or exasperate it? Do these allied forces perform better in terms of observing human rights/minimizing collateral damage when they are being trained/supervised by U.S. troops or when left to their own devices? (Actually, this would be a good paper topic for any budding academics, if a definitive study of the subject does not already exist . . . )
Don't get me wrong. The United States clearly should not support militaries or tribal forces that systematically abuse human rights in the course of operations, and American policymakers/officers/analysts certainly should not turn a blind eye to any mistakes/infractions they see. But while it is easy to run around yelling "Accountability! Accountability! Accountability!" it is much more difficult to delineate where responsibility for such misdeeds actually lies, and how you would . . . er, hold people accountable.
Moreover, beyond this proposition's vagueness, it has a potentially deadly deterrent effect on future BPC missions. What military commander would voluntarily lead such a mission, or deploy his personnel knowing he could end up imprisoned for the misdeeds of an indigenous platoon he has little tactical or operational control over? Similarly, what administration would provide lethal aid/intelligence to an ally knowing they could be impeached or prosecuted if the operations resulted in collateral damage (something even our highly trained forces can not avoid completely).
Although civilian casaulties are always a tragedy we seek to avoid, the deterrent effect created by the absolutist stance Zenko implies would leave putative allies (and their civilian populations) at a formidable disadvantage to adversaries who have no respect for non-combatant immunity, thereby actually creating the potential for more of the abuses Zenko condemns.