I’ve been told American drone strikes are “surgical” while attending Aspen Ideas Festival panels, interviewing delegates at the Democratic National Convention, and perusing reader emails after every time I write about the innocents killed and maimed in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere.
It is a triumph of propaganda.
The inaccuracy of the claim fully occurred to me as I played back a recent interview I conducted with Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution. (His book Wired for War is a fascinating read.) “You used to measure a surgeon by how still could he hold his hand,” Singer told me. “How precise could he make the cut? Well, robotic systems, it isn’t a matter of shaking at minute levels. It doesn’t shake. You are amazed by a surgeon doing a cut that is millimeters in precision. With robotics it is in nanometers.” He was explaining why unmanned systems make sense in a variety of fields, not commenting on the Obama Administration’s rhetoric in its ongoing, multi-country drone war.
But that is how we think of surgeons, isn’t it?
They use a scalpel. Their cuts are precise down to the millimeter. Once in a great while there is a slip of the knife, a catastrophic mistake. In those cases, the surgeon is held accountable and the victim lavishly compensated. Oh, and there’s one more thing about surgical procedures: While the person being cut into is occasionally victimized by a mistake, there is never a case where the scalpel is guided so imprecisely that it kills the dozen people standing around the operating table. For that reason, orderlies and family members don’t cower in hospital halls terrified that a surgeon is going to arbitrarily kill them. And if he did, he’d be arrested for murder.
So no, drone strikes aren’t like surgery at all.
If you haven’t already, read this article.
“‘Suppose there is a hereafter and there is a fruit, result, of deeds done well or ill. Then it is possible that at the dissolution of the body after death, I shall arise in the heavenly world, which is possessed of the state of bliss.’ This is the first solace found by him.
“‘Suppose there is no hereafter and there is no fruit, no result, of deeds done well or ill. Yet in this world, here and now, free from hatred, free from malice, safe and sound, and happy, I keep myself.’ This is the second solace found by him.
“‘Suppose evil (results) befall an evil-doer. I, however, think of doing evil to no one. Then, how can ill (results) affect me who do no evil deed?’ This is the third solace found by him.
“‘Suppose evil (results) do not befall an evil-doer. Then I see myself purified in any case.’ This is the fourth solace found by him.
"The disciple of the Noble Ones, Kalamas, who has such a hate-free mind, such a malice-free mind, such an undefiled mind, and such a purified mind, is one by whom, here and now, these four solaces are found."
The Four Solaces of the Kalama Sutta
This demonstrates that belief in any sort of hereafter is unnecessary to live a virtuous life; rather, it is acquired through living and thinking in a manner that overcomes hatred, anger, and greed.
It is also in a way demonstrative of the type of atheism inherent in Buddhism - perhaps reincarnation or god/s are really real and perhaps not. But it isn’t important or necessary to achieve the goal of happiness and clarity.
But I find myself mostly feeling good, and thinking that the way things are for me is a pleasant way for things to be, which I don’t much want to change.
According to Autism Speaks, though, I’m the horrible Autistic Child that murdered the healthy, happy, child my parents really wanted.
Not sure if my mother really wanted any child at all, but I’m pretty sure she’s happy with the intelligent, quirky, scientist that she got. I’m healthy, happy, and just fine with being “abnormal”.