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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Small vs Big Picture Of War

During the last drone protest, a soldier came out to counterprotest. His sign simply said: 'A Drone Saved My Life.' It was similar to the sign I was holding that said: 'Drones Fly, Children Die.' My friends with other signs and I had our share of support of honking horns from cars passing by as did this soldier.

Those who honked were being more tribal than reflective. Those who honked for the soldier did so out a sense of patriotism and an almost cultural worship of our military. Those who honked for us who were protesting the drones honked out of ideological loyalties. There were two other groups of those who drove by. One group was unaffected by the protests while the other, a silent, miniscule minority perhaps thought about the words that were on all of the signs including that of the soldier.

During the end of the protest, I said to the soldier that our signs have the same weakness: they are both small picture signs. I am not sure if he heard or understood what I meant. 

Our signs were small picture signs because they were more about the immediate effect on a specific group of stakeholders of our wars and interventions. Of course, the difference between the two groups of stakeholders is that our soldiers had more say so over their participation than innocent civilians do. 

Both of our signs were pointing to those who were experiencing today's wars and interventions up close and in person. That is why our signs were presenting small pictures of the drone issue. What our signs missed was the big picture. Though there are severl parts of the big picture, I can only think of two right now. The moral issues and the long term effects.

The moral issues involved with using drones depends on their context. Are drones being used in combat to kill enemy combatants or as tools of assassination? Most of our protesting was done to oppose using drones to assasinate people. The reason why includes the lack of oversight over the President as he selects the targets. This lack of oversight translates into a lack of due process for those who are targeted and that is a concern regardless of who the target is. For not only have American citizens and even older kids been targeted by assasination drones, those nearby are also killed and wounded. And witnessing the mayhem caused by one's own trigger-finger eagerness is also taking a toll on some of those flying the drones. 

A minor point in the drones favor here comes the question of how responsible are we for future attacks when we pass up on an opportunity to assasinate a dangerous enemy hiding safely in a foreign nation who could have been taken out by a drone? But here we have to remember that if we don't have limits in how we strike back at our enemies, we will have been corrupted by our weapons.

Next, we should examne the long term effects of using drones.  We should note here that the moral issues are minimally affected by short and long term effects. That is because moral issues deal with our right to take the actions we are taking rather than whether an action can be deemed a success.

The long term effects give us a standoff between creating future enemies as our use of drones becomes morally repulsive and people are angered enough to want to take action. Of course, that is one side of the standoff. The other side is what harm do we prevent by taking out high-level targets early and effectively?

And though it would be difficult to argue against the use of drones in many combat arenas,  we should note that though drones immediately save lives, by sparing us more of war's pain, they may cost more lives in the long run as the advantage gained from the use of drones is to, as Bush's unfunded wars did, spare us the costs of war so that we would be less inclined to end the current war and avoid future ones.

Basing decisions on the small picture is like eating just one's dessert for dinner. Yes, the immediate effect is great taste, but the long term effect can involve serious problems health problems if the practice is continued for a long time. Thus, both sides, the soldier and his supporters, and my fellow protesters need to protest in ways that point the public's attention to not just the immediate effects, but to both the moral issues involved as well as the long term effects of the kind of war we are conducting in the Middle East.

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