Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Not the drones you’re looking for

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When I picked up the Wall Street Journal today, I was uninspired—and uninterested—by the headline on Turkey. It came as no surprise that “Turkey’s Attack on Civilians [was] Tied to [a] U.S. Military Drone,” which suggests that U.S. intelligence led (indirectly?) to the death of 35 Kurdish smugglers several months ago.

MQ-1 Predator UAV

That the U.S. is cooperating with, or profiting from informing, the Turkish military should be assumed, especially within the context of NATO. Though the WSJ article does not address this specifically (except to say that the U.S.’s role has never been “reported” before), it raises what the article refers to as an “outstanding question”: “How far do we entrust allies with our deadly drone technology?”

The question initially seemed absurd to ask without a real understanding of the strategic alliance between the U.S. and Turkey, especially as it relates to Kurdish separatism, but it prompted, for me, another question: How far can Turkey trust the U.S. and its deadly drone technology?

Though I do not mean to foist any nefarious intent on either party—this story reads like a true error—it prompts us to wonder if the Turks are, as Ralph Peters cleanly divides it in “Constant Conflict,” “information masters” or “information victims” (regulars will know that I have mentioned this article before).

Writing in 1997, Peters predicts:

One of the defining bifurcations of the future will be the conflict between information masters and information victims.

So we have to wonder: Is one automatically an “information master” by virtue of receiving information from an information master?

I think that this situation is an excellent example of the real answer: No. As the Journal takes care to mention, “The U.S. drone flew away after reporting the caravan’s movements, leaving the Turkish military to decide whether to attack…”

The Turkish military, after the report, had for guidance the word of a U.S. cyber-warrior in a trailer somewhere—and nothing more. Within minutes, and for months afterward, the Turkish military regretted trusting that intelligence. And the U.S., as their relationship with Turkey dictates, can rightly disavow any responsibility.

If they hadn’t realized it before, Turkey is now painfully aware that they are just as “victimized” by U.S. intelligence as anyone else. Not only is hearing intelligence secondhand not the same as knowing, but the knower controls whatever information is told. And even when the intentions are good, as it seems in this instance, the U.S. can finger-wag, blame the Turks for a strategic error, and—as the WSJ prompts—reconsider “entrusting” its allies with such sensitive information when things go haywire. As if the U.S. is the victim of its own intelligence.


Written by M. James

May 16, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Posted in News, Politics, Turkey

Tagged with , , ,

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