FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Going Mad With Drones

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

 

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Justin Anderson
Don’t Count the Left Out Just Yet
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail