28 October 2013

Obama Drones on and on (or, one difference between arithmetic and systems dynamics)

Projections based on arithmetic are different from those made based on systems' dynamics. If you use DDT to kill 98% of the mosquitoes, it is easy to think that you've reduced their population to just 2% of their original numbers. Well you have. Temporarily. But now you only have DDT-resistant mosquitoes left. And they'll multiply to fill the same niche they filled before but this time your DDT won't work to fend them off. Which brings us to Obama and his drones.

Drones seem like a wonderful idea. I like the fact that they give a president an option other than ignoring bad guys or starting a war. Bad guys do hurt other people and it seems puzzling that someone would want bullies to run loose, free to intimidate, kill, and terrorize innocents who simply want to raise their children to become, themselves, the parents of happy children. And sending troops in to invade every time you get intelligence on a bad guy is - of course - ludicrous. 

But drones aren't as precise as advertised. They'll leave at least 2% of the terrorists and worse, at least 2% of their victims are likely to be innocent people. So, the remaining terrorists now have the very real outrage of people who are incredulous that the US is executing judgment on their citizens from abroad, without trial or jury, and in the process killing people like a grandma surrounding by her grandchildren.

The question is, are we hampering the current efforts of the Taliban while greatly helping their future recruitment efforts? Just looking at the arithmetic, drones make a great deal of sense. Looking at the system dynamics, they don't.

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