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:
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail