Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Founded by Mark Kleiman (1951-2019)
Kevin Drum notes that 65% of people in a WaPo poll approve of drone attacks on “suspected terrorists”, even on American citizens.Â The question mixes up some important issues, and Kevin dissects out whether a death penalty, no matter how delivered, for being suspected is OK.Â But a lot of people are also very antsy about using drones for anything other than surveillance.Â A lot of people are also worried about giving the police Tasers.Â Why?
I think our emotional reaction to stuff like this depends a lot on what alternatives we instinctively compare it to.Â Is the drone a cowardly analog to lying in wait for a bad guy and bushwacking him, a pusillanimous substitute for standing up and ‘fighting like a man’, putting your safety at immediate risk?Â Or is it just like launching a bullet from far away, or dropping a bomb from high in the air, or planting a mine that goes off when you’re in another county, except better because it’s more accurate and selective, can be called off right up to the last second, and even safer for the pilot/operator?Â Â Is a Taser a way of allowing the cop to overpower a suspect without putting himself at risk by laying hands on him?Â Will it be used where sharp words or the threat of a poke with a nightstick would have sufficed, or will it substitute for some uses of firearms, with less permanent damage (especially when the suspect turns out not to be a perp, but just drunk and foolhardy)?
I think we are diffident about these things in part because of some subconscious idea of sportsmanship. There’s certainly no glory in using them:Â a sergeant sitting in front of a screen in Idaho someplace, vaporizing someone half a world away, is not going to figure in a war movie the way John Wayne’s or even Tom Hanks’ characters did, and a cop at the safe end of Taser wires is not Dirty Harry.Â Achilles had status because he went face to face with Trojans (though it certainly wasn’t a fair fight), and Paris didn’t get a lot of props for a lucky arrow shot.Â All this is probably a feature and not a bug; anything that deglamorizes killing people is OK with me, even at a price of objectifying and abstracting it.
Author: Michael O'Hare
Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training.
He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at UniversitÃ Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs.
At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4Ã—5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.
View all posts by Michael O'Hare
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