The new geography of drone warfare

According Kailash Srinivasan, the 2011 release of the Obama administration’s ‘National Strategy for Counterterrorism’ does not so much limit US foreign policy and exorcise the ghosts of the Bush’s war on terror, as it does expand power projection to an indefinite amount of ‘ungoverned spaces’. The symbol of America’s new empire is the predator drone: both a weapon and a strategy for a post-Cold War world of globalization, where the territorial sovereignty of nation states are increasingly rendered contingent  – both by insurgencies and outside intervention.

The counterterrorism document paves the way for drone intervention in any place on earth that is ‘affiliated’ or ‘allied’ with al-Qaeda. The theatres of combat range from North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, as well as Central, Western, and South Asia. These ‘surgical strikes’ that are no longer contained to a single ‘enemy’ nation risk devastating thousands upon thousands of civilian lives, and the lack of US deaths helps bypass public accountability. In sum:

Drones are not simply a tactic, a tool of warcraft. They are strategic instruments that change the very nature of war and the geopolitical context in which war is embedded. They militarize global social spaces in a qualitatively new manner.

The familiar patchwork of nation states is changing, with a network of ‘global cities’ where wealth and power are concentrated, surrounded by a ‘planet of the slums’ as Mike Davis would call it, represents the new geopolitical matrix.

 Through a technological fix, drones solve what has been a decades-long strategic dilemma within military circles. Our conceptions of time and space have changed dramatically, and this is why predator drones are more than a mere tactic. The decision to move away from ground troops and land invasions is not part of a “progressive” move away from aggressive foreign policy but a logical accommodation to a globalized world of disorder.

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