Sixty-eight years ago this morning, allied forces landed on the Normandy beaches and began the push through France that would end the war in Europe within a year. World War II, known as “the Good War,” was the deadliest war in history. Over 60 million people were killed, more than 2.5% of the world’s population. Yesterday, a CIA drone strike in Pakistan killed Abu Yahya al-Libi, Al Qaeda’s deputy leader, in what we are told is a major blow against terrorism.
Why does the world not seem safer this morning?
Because the war on terrorism is the current century’s equivalent of “the good war,” we justify the use of unmanned drones to seek out and kill people thousands of miles away. But the program seems at least morally uncertain and, in the long run, strategically counterproductive.
Exactly a week after D-Day, the Germans unleashed a barrage of unmanned V-1 rockets that did far more damage to Britain than had the entire Blitz. Three months later came the V-2, which, according to Lynne Olson’s Citizens of London, “traveled faster than sound and approached their targets in total silence.”
There is a huge distinction between Hitler’s rockets, which were weapons of indiscriminate destruction, and the drones, which are infinitely more precise. And yet, the latter are clearly descendents of the former, which, wrote Evelyn Waugh, were “as impersonal as the plague,” bringing death suddenly from the sky.
Both weapons killed; neither brought victory to those who used them; and in Germany’s case, the rockets led to Nuremburg.