War from afar: How the Pentagon fell in love with drones

December 8, 2013



In the last years of the twentieth century, two weapons changed the way that America fights air wars: smart bombs (bombs that “see” a target using a television camera or a radiation sensor, or that head for a programmed location) and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Smart bombs came into their own in the first Gulf War. Reconnaissance UAVs proved their worth in Bosnia and Kosovo in the late 1990s, and offensive UAVs began firing missiles in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere a few years later.The American public got its first look at smart bombs on January 17,1991. Iraq had invaded Kuwait five months earlier, and President George H. Bush had put together a UN-backed coalition to force its withdrawal. Iraq had the world’s fourth-largest army, at 955,000 men, and it faced a coalition force only two-thirds that size. America’s last experience of a real war had been the long disaster of Vietnam—nineteen years from start to finish, 58,000 American dead, and 153,000 wounded—and even experienced military officers feared that the Gulf War might be a reprise of Vietnam. Gen. Edward Meyer, a former Army chief of staff, predicted that America would suffer ten thousand to thirty thousand casualties in driving Iraq out of Kuwait. Saddam Hussein was counting on exactly that and reportedly told U.S. ambassador April Glaspie, “Americans cannot stand 10,000 dead.”Continue Reading…

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