Academic journal article Journal of National Security Law & Policy

Dawn of the Intercontinental Sniper: The Drone's Cascading Contribution to the Modern Battlefield's Complexity

Academic journal article Journal of National Security Law & Policy

Dawn of the Intercontinental Sniper: The Drone's Cascading Contribution to the Modern Battlefield's Complexity

Article excerpt

Dawn of the Intercontinental Sniper: The Drone's Cascading Contribution to the Modern Battlefield's Complexity PREDATOR:THE SECRET ORIGINS OF THE DRONE REVOLUTION. By Richard Whittle. Henry Holt & Co., New York, 2014, pp 353. $30.00.

This is the story of the first armed drone ever to be flown by intercontinental remote control and used to kill human beings on the other side of the globe.1

INTRODUCTION

Rarely do mainstream publishers offer heavily researched, non-fiction case studies involving national security, defense acquisition, and international law. Nor do most books in these disciplines leave readers eagerly anticipating a forthcoming action movie.2 So kudos to author Richard Whittle for crafting a thrilling and highly informative history of technological innovation, government contracting, and weapons system development and deployment. This well-written and thought-provoking book offers anecdotes for examination of a plethora of complex issues in national security and international law. The military's senior service schools and academies would be well served to incorporate Predator into their reading lists. It is easy to imagine a semester-long capstone seminar at the National Defense University (NDU) Eisenhower School3 based solely on the cornucopia of issues raised in this book.

This review essay introduces prospective readers to a handful of the captivating characters that propel the Predator saga; identifies some of the many interesting national security and international law issues raised in Whittle's book; offers a disturbing anecdote about the extent to which the government's post-millennial outsourcing has eroded the government's monopoly over the use of force; paints a pessimistic picture of the Defense Acquisition System; and concludes that a broad range of sophisticated readers will enjoy Whittle's excellent new book, Predator.

I. GREAT STORIES INVOLVE REMARKABLE PEOPLE

This is the drone revolution's book of genesis, and like another creation story it opens near the confluence of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. It begins with a boy in Baghdad .4

Readers familiar with his first book, The Dream Machine, already know that Whittle believes effective storytelling depends upon animating compelling characters.5 Three examples amply demonstrate this point. First, the lyrical quote above introduces Abraham (Abe) Karem, a Baghdad-born Israeli engineer equipped with a unique combination of skill, confidence, interest in a niche-to-nascent field,6 and a fierce independent-or anti-establishment-streak.7 Karem's early interest in model gliders and his later inability to remain constrained by the bureaucracies of the Israeli Air Force and Israel Aerospace Industries led to his emigration to the United States and paved the way for the Predator's evolution.

Similarly, the Blue brothers,8 Linden and Neal, the eventual owners of the company that builds the Predator,9 lived lives made for entertaining biography. In college, the brothers were featured on the cover of Life magazine for their exploits piloting a four-seat, fabric-covered Piper aircraft through a forty-four stop, 110-day Latin American expedition.10 Remarkably, the brothers ultimately encountered the Nicaraguan rebels' efforts to overthrow the Sandinistas, an experience that convinced Neal Blue that GPS-guided flying bombs might be a useful covert weapon.11 Theirs is a remarkable tale of kismet and moxie.

Finally, Whittle introduces Commander Kirk S. Lippold, who was serving as captain of the USS Cole when, on October 12, 2000, al Qaeda suicide bombers blew a hole in the side of his ship, killing seventeen sailors.12 Lippold first visited the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters at 6:30 a.m. on September 11, 2001. Shortly after 7:00 a.m., Lippold bemoaned the public's underestimation of Osama bin Laden: "I believe it is going to take a seminal event, probably in this country, where hundreds, if not thousands, are going to have to die before Americans realize we're at war with this guy. …

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