Surviving relatives of people who have been killed in U.S. drone attacks are naturally furious at their loved-ones’ deaths, and are seeking recompense from the U.S. and trying to get the U.S. to stop drone warfare. And you can’t blame them. Such deaths are called collateral damage — the unavoidable effects of warfare.
But the survisors of the victims also should be seeking recompense from the target fighters, usually their own countrymen, even their own relatives, who hid among them, almost assuring they would be killed or injured if a U.S. drone attacked.
A drone is a standoff weapon — which is to say it goes into the battlefield while the sailor, soldier, Marine or airman stays (or stands off) behind, launching and guiding the drone to its target, then getting it out of harm’s way if that becomes possible.
It is a strategy among terrorist fighters to blend in with civilian populations in the hope they will be harder to find. They also hope that U.S. inclination to try to spare civilian populations will make it less likely that heavy weapons such as guided missiles or cannons will be used against them.
Standoff weapons are nothing new. For example, the 16-inch guns of the American and Japanese battleships in world War II had ranges of as much as 24 miles. From the decks of the ships firing those guns, one often could not see the shells land. Spotter aircraft had to call in the fire. Then came missiles, and finally cruise missiles, which could be launched from ships at sea and hit a predetermined target the size of a car 500 miles away, reducing collateral damage, unless the enemy purposefully put civilians in harm’s way.
And, most recently drones have come upon the scene, with accuracy even greater than that of cruise missiles.
The satellite-guided drones offer two advantages: (1) They are accurate finders of intended targets and (2) They are able to avoid collateral damage as much as it can be avoided. As long as the targets stay among civilians, though — in some cases their own wives and children — collateral damage may be unavoidable.