Academic journal article Military Review

Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins

Academic journal article Military Review

Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins

Article excerpt

KILL CHAIN: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins

Andrew Cockburn, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2015, 320 pages

In President Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1961 farewell address, he famously warned of the growing military-industrial complex: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist" Andrew Cockburns book, Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins, at its surface, attempts to trace the history of the U.S. drone program, but in reality is a commentary on how drone warfare is a direct product of Ike's prescient warning. Cockburn articulates the danger of the military and industry's affection for automated warfare despite surprisingly poor results that targeted killings have engendered on the battlefield. While Cockburn brings many biases to his conclusions, Kill Chain represents an important work in the U.S.' public discourse over the merits of expanded drone use.

Cockburn has written extensively on national security affairs, war, and military strategy. Known for his New York Times Editors' Choice, Rumsfeld, and his analysis of the Soviet military in The Threat, Kill Chain represents deeply researched first-hand military and intelligence sources regarding the history of the U.S. drone program. The scope of Kill Chain is vast: Cockburn connects today's modern drones to their roots in World War Il's strategic bombing campaigns and the rise of automated battlefield sensors in Vietnam. He analyzes the effectiveness of air power in Kosovo and the Gulf War as well as the use of "high value targeting" across both conventional and irregular conflicts like counternarcotics in Colombia.

Cockburn's conclusions are clear: the military industrial complex is selling a profitable story that targeted killing with drones (and reliance on technology in general) is an efficient improvement to warfare. …

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