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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 27, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Media Ban! Making Sense of the War Between Trump and the Press
Dave Lindorff
Resume Inflation at the NSC: Lt. General McMaster’s Silver Star Was Essentially Earned for Target Practice
Conn Hallinan
Is Trump Moderating US Foreign Policy? Hardly
Norman Pollack
Political Castration of State: Militarization of Government
Kenneth Surin
Inside Dharavi, a Mumbai Slum
Lawrence Davidson
Truth vs. Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Extradition Saga of Kim Dotcom
Robert Fisk
Why a Victory Over ISIS in Mosul Might Spell Defeat in Deir Ezzor
David Swanson
Open Guantanamo!
Ted Rall
The Republicans May Impeach Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Why Should Trump―or Anyone―Be Able to Launch a Nuclear War?
Andrew Stewart
Down with Obamacare, Up with Single Payer!
Colin Todhunter
Message to John Beddington and the Oxford Martin Commission
David Macaray
UFOs: The Myth That Won’t Die?
Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail