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Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare

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The first history of drone warfare, written as it happened. From the opening missile salvo in the skies over Afghanistan in 2001 to a secret strike in the Philippines early this year, or a future in which drones dogfight off the coast of Africa, Terminator Planet takes you to the front lines of combat, Washington war rooms, and beyond. Drawing on several years of research -- including official documents, open-source intelligence, and interviews with military officers -- two of the foremost analysts specializing in drone war offer a sobering, factual account of robot warfare combined with critical analyses found nowhere else. Packed with rarely seen Pentagon photos, Terminator Planet provides a rich history of the last decade of drone warfare, a clear-eyed look at its present, and a far-reaching guide to its future. You used to have to watch science fiction movies to imagine where that future was headed, now you can read Terminator Planet -- and know.

180 pages, Paperback

First published May 24, 2012

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Nick Turse

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Displaying 1 - 2 of 2 reviews
Profile Image for Jerome Otte.
1,746 reviews
December 2, 2014
This is essentially Tom and Nick's revised and updated body of work detailing the ueber-dystopian Dronescape over the past few years - spanning everything from secret Drone Empire bases to offshore droning; a Philip Dick-style exercise on a more than plausible drone-on-drone war off East Africa in 2050; and a postscript inimitably titled, "America as a Shining Drone Upon a Hill". It does beat fiction because it's all fact-based. An MQ-1 Predator or an MQ-9 Reaper to go?

Mr. Turse and Mr. Englehardt provide excellent background material about what is known about the program. We learn how drones were imagined to play a significant part in supporting America's strategy for global hegemony. We begin to understand the sprawling complex of bases, training facilities and command-and-control centers that keep the drones in the air. The authors discuss how these Terminator-like machines have proven useful in projecting power in the Middle East and other flash points deemed critical to American empire.

The authors pull no punches as they critique this highly dubious enterprise. Fundamentally, drones represent the latest in a long line of high-tech solutions that are to cure America's fatally flawed foreign policies, but obviously, drone warfare is simply another tool in the toolbox with its own advantages and limitations. Death and destruction by remote control tends to alienate populations and thus causes more (not less) socio-political instability. As the current generation of drones are not as advanced or reliable as commanders wish they should be, the authors fear yet another costly international arms race. The drone program appears likely to remain with us for years to come inasmuch as drones represent the kind of low-cost, ultra-controllable option the military establishment desires.

This digital file becomes even more crucial now that US and world public opinion knows US President Barack Obama is the certified Droner-in-Chief; the final judge, jury and digital Grand Inquisitor on which some suspicious and unlucky guy in Yemen, or Pakistan, or Somalia or the Philippines) will get his paradise virgins via targeted assassination.

Targeted - and dissolved - throughout this grim process are also a pile of outdated concepts such as national sovereignty, set-in-stone principles of US and international law, and any category which until the collapse of the Soviet Union used to define what is war and what is peace. Anyway, those categories started to be dissolved for good already during the Bush administration - which "legalized" widespread use CIA and Special Ops teams for covert action.

I'm not saying this is the wrong way to go, but it's obvious that there is no perfect, permanent solutions to countering global terrorism; terrorism is aproblem to be managed, not solved. Covert action, whether by drone strikes, CIA renditions, or Special Ops raids are merely tools in a toolbox, the best of several unpleasant alternatives.

As much as The Drone Empire is global, drones can only be effective if ground intelligence is effective. A simple example is enough. Ultimately, in AfPak, it's not Obama that decides on his "kill list". It's the Pakistani ISI - which relies the info that suits its contingencies to the CIA. And this while the Pentagon and the CIA keep working under the galactic illusion of absolute supremacy of American technology - when they cannot even neutralize an inflation of cheap, ultra low-tech IEDs. Although drone "pilots" get a bad rap these days, the only thing they're guilt of is fighting smarter than the enemy.
Profile Image for Marley.
516 reviews19 followers
December 28, 2012
And I thought Death of the Liberal Class was depressing!

Weapons are not my forte, but I as a longtime donor to antiwar.com I was offered this freebie and grabbed it. Tom Englehardt and Nick Turse make drones accessible to the "civilian" reader and manages

to scare this reader in particular. While painting a grim picture of airpower and wawfare of tomorrow (and today) they also point out "technical" problems with drones which take the edge off slightly, it's clear that drones are the wave of the future. Am I the only reader who finds it more than ridiculous that poorly trained guys in camo are "piloting" drones over Pakistan while siting s in safely in a trailer in South Dakota. And just wait until other countries or stateless groups launch drones on their own enemies and us. What about those little hummingbird-sized guys or even smaller butterfly drones of the future? The world has gone crazy.

Outside of the entire drone issue, I was especially interested in the authors' assessment of how the end of the draft was the beginning of the modern warfare detached warfare state.
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