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Sunday, May 1, 2016

EYE IN THE SKY: Drone Warfare


Eye in the Sky is a highly rated R film showing how much of future wars will be fought, like a video game from your living room.  Rotten Tomatoes reviewers gave it a 94% rating, and 87% of audiences liked it.  If you want the standard complete review, click on Godfrey Cheshire's critique or RogerEbert.com.

Helen Mirren is good, but miscast.  How often do you see an active 70-year old British female colonel?  Alan Rickman was also fine, but too a tad old, at 69, to be a British general.  He recently passed away of pancreatic cancer.

The stars of the movie were drones, with the beetle perhaps the most fascinating.  There was also a hummingbird.  

But the reality is that these flying "camera" are not yet ready for active duty.  The high definition quality of each scene seemed too good to be true, but, then again, Google has you covered, sometimes in real time, and you might not know about that.  I wrote in "google map, 15 Craigside Place," and, whoa, I can see my parked car.  No beetle yet, though, to catch me punching out this posting.

The operation was world-wide:
  • Target:  al-Shabab militants in Nairobi, Kenya
  • Control centers:  Whitehall in London and military base in Sussex
  • Drone technology:  U.S. Military personnel in Las Vegas (they were the pilots who pulled the trigger to send the missile) and Honolulu (facial recognition technology)
No Western boots on the ground, for the only human in imminent danger was a Somalian working for a British spy agency.

While technology took center stage, the all-pervading purpose had to do with the morality of drone warfare.  Remember, just last month, a U.S. drone strike killed 150 or so "terrorists" in Somali.  You're never quite sure these days of who really died.  And we're not supposed to be at war there.

The British used American technology, but life is not so simple.  A good part of the beginning showed a typical Kenyan suburb family where a young girl is careful about using a hula hoop, for it is now appropriate for children to have fun in this neighborhood.  So just about when a long fought decision to send a missile to destroy a house where two terrorists were being fitted with vest bombs gets a go, this girl sets up a table to sell home-made bread right next to the target.

American decision-makers had no problem with giving the approval, for these terrorists could well kill hundreds, so in war you take a few losses.  The British, at the almost every level showed a higher humanity, but more, probably, to cover themselves in case of failure.  The American Secretary of State, found playing ping pong in Beijing, called his UK mates wusses for not proceeding.  This process took up most of the movie:  trying to connect with the British Prime Minister and such for the okay.

The American "pilot" in Las Vegas essentially refused to pull the trigger, for there was an 85% chance that the girl might not survive.  But the chain of command found a way (mostly pushed by that old female colonel) to drop the odds to 45%, in sequence two missiles were fired from a drone, killing the terrorists...and little girl.

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