And now for the best news: the payoff. I'm not talking about the kills: We've already proved we can kill lots of people the old-fashioned way. I'm talking about the people we don't kill: civilians. We've talked before about hover time: the drones' superior ability to stay in the air, without fatigue or risk of death, allowing them to watch the ground and identify and track targets. If that level of persistence and precision improves our ability to distinguish the bad guys from everybody else, then the bottom line isn't just kills. It is, in Clapper's words, fewer "collateral casualties." If you look back at reports from the ground, that's exactly what stands out about the recent drone attacks: We've been hitting an impressively high ratio of bad guys, especially senior bad guys, to innocents. Yes, some innocents have died. But no counterinsurgent air war has ever been this precise.Saletan concludes by suggesting that these tactics may solve the problem of terrorist insurgency...or maybe it will create something worse.
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