FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Going Mad With Drones

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Without imagination, predictability is bound to become a vice.  Australia’s explosive, uncontainable opposition leader Tony Abbott has made his latest splash in policy waters by suggesting that his frightened country should propel itself into the twenty first century with drones.  What sweet noble Uncle Sam can do, propelling his light from Winthrop’s “city upon a hill”, Australia can imitate “Down Under.”

This is the second time Abbott has mooted the suggestion, aping the disposition in numerous countries to buy into the drone market.  In May 2010, he made a promise that a Coalition government would acquire three of the drones.  This is to the good – if you are part of the manufacturing business behind the Global Hawke model.

Up to 66 countries will become eligible to purchase those toys of terror from the US in due course. Charmingly, Richard Genaille, deputy director of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency has stated that, “We don’t really have a comprehensive U.S. government policy [on exports]” (NBC News, Sep 6).  While Northrop Grumman Corp chief executive Wes Bush is thrilled about Obama’s infatuation with the drone project, he has expressed frustration about a lack of clarity on codifying export practices.  (The Obama administration is considering, as of this writing, a single list of items to be administered by one licensing agency.)

Bush has little reason to be concerned – US arms sales make up most of the global market and the Australian defence forces have gotten into the queue.  But even manufacturers of killing and surveillance machines have a reason to be worried about the competition.  Exporting “dual-use” technologies can be something of a hurdle. Bush warns that a failure to export to the likes of South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Australia would repeat the folly of the 1990s, when the US share of the commercial satellite market was diminished as a result of strict regulations.

Abbott, as intending customer, sees broader purposes for these drones.  By all means use them on refugees.  And terrorists – or the other way around.  Nuance is alien to the pugilistic Abbott, who tends to see Australia as a land in desperate need of iron cladding against fictional enemies.  Nor does it consider that drones do come with their fair set of problems – witness the recent drama Israel Aerospace Industries had with its Heron TP, grounded after severe technical problems were unearthed (Jerusalem Post, May 19). Add to this a report from the Washington Business Journal (Jun 12), which revealed that 63 percent of US Customs and Border Protection’s unmanned vehicles remained unused.  A robotic future is a far from perfect one.

Drumming up support for such sinister weapons requires a sense of timing.  What better forum then than the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL)?  As ever, it is Australia’s north that terrifies policy makers.  Historically, such vast geographical space has been the incubator of conspiratorial fantasies – German Lutherans bound to commit mischief in league with oppressed Aboriginals, clandestine Japanese incursions, and, of late, “boat people.”  What to do then, about this lack of eyesight, as it were?

“Global Hawke unmanned aerial vehicles, which in a day can undertake detailed surveillance of 40,000 square nautical miles, could help to protect the oil and gas projects on the North West Shelf as well as allow much earlier detection of illegal boat arrivals” (Sep 25).  Having scolded the current Australian government for not purchasing “Made in Australia” weapons of death, he proceeds to extol the virtues of “American made”.  You can’t have it all.

The Australian Government’s Defence Capability Plan (2012) expresses a similar interest in typically mangled prose.  Tier 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) will constitute what the report calls Phase 4 of JP 129, providing “an ongoing organic Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability for land force operations, as well as provision of a system that can be operated from or within confined areas (such as an urban environment).”  Units will be given “enhanced situation awareness and increased force protection.”  Maritime patrol also features on the list as a potential use for such vehicles.

Given the penny pinching regimes that are in place at the moment, US manufacturers are going to have to make the Global Hawke a very attractive proposition.  Each vehicle costs, at current pricing, $US218 million.  The more humble, though less grandiose killer – the Reaper – is a mere $US28 million.  Cost will, in time, only be a minor deterrence.  With political figures such as Abbott, those morally vacuous operators at Northrop Grumman Corp will have nothing to fear.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail