The new issue of Time magazine promises on its cover "Essential Info for the Year Ahead." One apparently essential report: U.S. drones are awesome.
The report–written by Mark Thompson, available to subscribers only explains that a "hot military trend" this way:
Today's generals and admirals want weapons that are smaller, remote-controlled and bristling with intelligence. In short, more drones that can tightly target terrorists, deliver larger payloads and are some of the best spies the U.S. has ever produced, even if they occasionally get captured in Iran or crash on landing at secret bases.
There's no time to dwell on that, because there are too many good things to say about our remote-control war. "Drones had a big year in 2011," Thompson writes, and 2012 will be even bigger. As Time readers learn, "Unlike humans, these weapons don't need sleep."
And best of all, apparently, the military aren't the only ones doing the killing:
America's arsenal has become so small and lethal, you don't need the U.S. Army–or any military service at all, in fact–to field and wield them. The CIA, which used to be limited to derringers and exploding cigars, is now not very secretly flying drones. With little public acknowledgment and minimal congressional oversight, these clandestine warriors have killed some 2,000 people identified as terrorists lurking in shadows around the globe since 9/11.
The British Bureau of Investigative Journalism's investigation of the CIA drone program in Pakistan (8/10/11) stressed less of the gee-whiz and more the real-life consequences of the attacks. Estimates of civilian deaths range from 390 to 780– including almost 200 children. U.S. officials, for the record, were once making absurd claims that no innocents were killed.
As for the apparent enthusiasm for waging a war where "you don't need the U.S. Army" at all–that is precisely one of the criticisms of the drone program; some legal experts argue that non-military personnel are not legal combatants, and therefore killing every one of those 2,000 "people identified as terrorists" was a war crime. Others point out that employing drones outside an active combat zone could also violate international law. But none of that is "Essential Info" for 2012.