Today’s Drone Critics: Robert Gates and a Former Drone 

Greg Jaffe reports on Robert Gates’s remarks to the Association of the U.S. Army. A lot of other papers have led with Gates’s call for a sequestration fix; Jaffe leads with some real talk on drone warfare.

Remarkable advances in precision munitions, sensors, information and satellite technology and more can make us overly enamored with the ability of technology to transform the traditional laws and limits of war. A button is pushed in Nevada and seconds later a pickup truck explodes in Kandahar.

War, said Gates, is not a “video game.” Speaking of video games and buttons in Nevada, Richard Engel has talked to Brandon Bryant, a former drone operator who now wants to speak about how dehumanizing the job was. He estimates that he participated in missions that killed a total of 1,600-odd people.

Bryant and the rest of his team were supposed to use their drone to provide support and protection to patrolling U.S. troops. But he recalls watching helplessly as insurgents buried an IED in a road and a U.S. Humvee drove over it.

“We had no way to warn the troops,” he said. He later learned that three soldiers died.

And once he had taken part in a kill, any remaining illusions about James Bond disappeared. “Like, this isn’t a videogame,” he said. “This isn’t some sort of fantasy. This is war. People die.”

All of this as the Stop Watching Us anti-NSA coalition gathers in D.C. for a Saturday rally. With the shutdown over, the fissures on the left crack back open, at the urging of realists and libertarians.