Fred Kaplan has an interesting essay on the history and use of armed drones by the United States at MIT Technology Review: ‘The world as free-fire zone‘ (June 2013). Kaplan provides a telling critique of Obama’s May statement about the conduct of targeted killings (though that doesn’t of course exhaust what the military uses UAVs for), but his discussion is muddied by what he says about Vietnam – and what he doesn’t.
The title of the essay invokes a notorious tactic deployed by the United States in South Vietnam: the creation of free-fire, free-strike or what the Air Force called free-bomb zones (the name was changed in 1967 to ‘specified fire zones’ for PR purposes, though what was specified was the zone not the fire). This is how historian Bernd Greinersummarises the policy in War without fronts: the USA in Vietnam (2007, trans. 2009):
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