Something to do in Wellington.

On May 20, 2014 from 6PM-7:30PM Diplosphere is hosting a panel discussion titled “Drone Strikes: Are They in New Zealand’s Interest?” The event will be hosted by Dr. Kennedy Graham MP-Green Party and will take place at the Theatrette, Parliament Buildings, Wellington. The hosts ask that people register for the event, which they can do by contacting Maty Nikkhou-O’Brien at the following email address:

The panel Chair is Dr. Roderick Alley of Victoria University, who has just published a thorough examination of drone warfare. The panelists are Professor Richard Jackson of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, investigative journalist Nicky Hager and myself.

It should be an interesting discussion. I will try to place the emergence of drone warfare in context before debating its legality and utility.

59 thoughts on “Something to do in Wellington.

  1. You’re joking Pablo, what sensible person will turn up to hear Graham the extreme left wank, the best he can do is put up a green sign in the house, and white hair intellectual poofter rubbish. Lets get on with the drone and kill the people we need to kill, Muslim extremist. Death to Islam terror

  2. Paul: Please refrain from personal attacks and aimless diatribes. It is not helpful.

  3. Quite right Pablo, personal insults have no place in the blogosphere. I always enjoy coming to Kiwipolitico because I know here that there is no risk of anyone being personally insulted even if they disagree with you.

  4. Even though I have fallen short of the standard from time to time, what ire has been displayed has been directed at trolls and fools who deliberately set out to hijack threads or engage in pointless argument about incidentals and irrelevancies.

    Moreover, any unpleasantries seen here pale in comparison to those regularly displayed on most NZ political blogs.

  5. Hi Pablo I find it very ironic that in the same post asking others not to level personal insults you describe people who disagree with you as “fools”.

  6. TT:

    You need to work on your reading comprehension. I wrote that the fools in question deliberately hijack threads with incidentals and irrelevancies. That is different than disagreeing with me, which plenty of people have done without adverse consequence.

  7. With quality commentary like this Pablo it must be really satisfying to maintain this blog.

    It is great that there is sufficient interest even to hold an event like this in Wellington even though the speakers seem to be from a consistent side of the political spectrum.

    Will anybody be arguing in favour of drones and their ability to take out the enemy leadership with very low risk to own forces? I see the Americans have used it very successfully against AQ. Islamism is committed to the worldwide caliphate and the world is as it is, not simply as some on the left would wish it to be. Drones are the first stage in the robotisation of warfare. They represent a very effective technological lead to make up for the modern democratic tendency not to want to wage war with actual people or actual consequences. Will you be addressing the technical future of warfare as part of utility or simply asking whether it achieves anything? Will you be discussing the possible delegation of rules of engagement to a computer should communication be lost?

    From a utility perspective the long flying surveillance drones would be much more effective at fisheries protection for NZ than the current resources.

  8. Nonetheless, the message is still “no personal insults unless Pablo thinks you deserve it”.

  9. Phil:

    It looks like I will be the “conservative” on the panel. I intend to contextualize the use of drones both strategically and technologically, then talk about the legal questions surrounding their use as lethal weapons (all in 7 minutes). I will note the utility of drones for myriad non-lethal tasks (which is 90 percent plus of what they do), and the need to regulate them both in civil as well as military aviation. I will point out that other than Pakistan and Afghanistan, no country has objected to the use of lethal drones or abdicated their future use by their own forces. And of course I will note that they are only efficient against targets that do not have effective air defenses.

  10. Phil, of the numerous questions your comment raises: Are you comfortable with the possibility of autonomous drones flying around shooting at people they deem to be targets? Are people smart enough to programme computers to be smart enough to spot the difference between people going about their daily business and people up to no good? As it is, even with humans pulling the trigger, there seems to be an awful lot of innocents getting caught up in drone strikes.

    Pablo: You’ve only got seven minutes?! Good luck.

  11. In what way is my writing personal and violent against our dear country New Zealand Pablo,
    I do thank you and respect opinion, but Islam terrorism is not personal Pablo, that is the whole point, Green poofter is green poofter Pablo , knock knock knock on the door

  12. A shame they couldn’t get a lawyer to talk about the legal implications.

  13. all Islam terrorist die, I am not a Christian, I am just a New Zealander ordinary ,all iSLAM terrorist die.

  14. Paul,

    You seem to be of the whaleoil school of bigotry: profess to be open minded about most things but use words like “poofter” as a pejorative. Forget about Green. How do you feel about “ginger?”

    And even if someone is red haired, Green and gay, what is the problem with that?

    TT’s comments notwithstanding, we try to keep ascriptive prejudice out of the discussion, and if it takes me getting harsh on trolls and fools, so be it.

    As I said before, please stop with the ad hominum attacks.

  15. readers it is along way between me and Pablo, I was originally violent here, I try to come in here as a good contributor

  16. Paul you are a neoconservative troll of the worst kind. No thoughts emit from your mouth just the gaseous emissions of a rotten stomach and decaying moral fibre. Why don’t you crawl off somewhere where your intellectual abilities are more adequate to the tone of discourse, like Whale Oil or the Kiwiblog sewer? There your rampant personal attacks will be most welcome as they are par for the course.

  17. OK, lets call it a day on the personal slams. I hope to see some of you on May 20!

  18. Pablo – That is really quite funny. You are American ex DOD and therefore clearly a raving neocon. No stereotyping there then. I would suggest your 7 minutes best spent by assuming anybody willing to turn out has already done a fair amount of reading and be quote knowledgeable. As organiser and audience member of those kind of events I always chafe when someone assumes ignoramuses turn up. It is a self selecting audience. You have 7 minutes to make about 3 points that will be worth discussing.
    China is introducing drones. There has not yet been an instance of drone on drone warfare but it will come. A swarm of drones could overwhelm any air defence. Rather than “efficient air defence” how about any air defence.
    Chris – specific human targeting -Not yet. Targeting a tank or anybody carrying an RPG is possible. I note that the drones (no link sorry) appear to allow more specific targeting than the prior state where a cruise missile would take out entire compound to get a target. Now they can observe and take out a vehicle containing the target. That is an overall reduction in harm.
    Discussion of legality is only going to tie one side in knots. All of the historic conventions on behaviour during war arose where both sides considered themselves to have a degree of civilisation and an accountable future. Those following a 1300 year old book have faith but no civilisation.

  19. Phil:

    I manually sifted through over a 1000 spam messages going back the last twelve hours. Your original post and the follow ups were numbers 993-995. I have posted the original. Should the problem occur again please send me the time that you tried to post, as that allows me to go directly to the time stamps on spam in the folder (we get 2-4000 spams a day, so knowing the time you posted and allowing for the 12 hours between the UK and NZ makes finding it a bit easier).

  20. Paul I hope you give Rod Alley the thrashing he deserves.

    His paper is just the work of a naive ‘academic’ blowing hot air on a topic he has no experience with.

    He has zero experience in the strategic arena let alone the deployment of kinetic operations. Just another of the fatuous self-important windbags NZ academia is infested with.

    Please Paul, take him down a peg… or six!

  21. @Phil: As usual your naivete is staggering. Perhaps you and Rod should team up?

    While it is technically true that enough drones can overwhelm air defenses, your logic is akin to saying that enough world war i infantrymen can overwhelm a machine gun nest… technically true but it is horrifically ineffcicient. The best way to penetrate air defenses is via low observability fourth and fifth generation fighter aircraft which, while individually expensive, are far more economically efficient to do so than to blanket them with drones.

    As Pablo rightly says, drones remain economically efficient only in a situation where air superiority is assured and will remain the case until technology makes a leap that evenb the best experts (like Pablo) forecast as thirty to forty years away, at minimum.

    Drones are the weapon of modern conflicts largely because the great powers of our era only fight assymetrical wars.

  22. I posted a few minutes ago Pablo and seem to be going straight to spam.

  23. Seems Pablo has finally got tired of your neoconservative Bush apologia, Phil.

    Time to find another blog that is more indulgent of your trolling. Maybe your mates at Whale Oil will wipe away your dude tears.

  24. Phil:

    Sorry, I cleared the spam folder (1500 worth) before I saw your message. Can you re-post the thought.

    Micawber: Rod is a decent chap. He only recently got into researching on drones and has a idealist/constructivist perspective on international relations, so his views on the subject tend to reflect that orientation.

    Your response to Phil’s claims about swarming air defenses with drones are spot on given current technologies. If anything, nanotech will introduce miniaturized and stealthy lethality to UAVs, at which point things get complicated for defenses.

  25. Phil: I see any dissenting opinion leaves you speechless. Too much time inside the Kiwiblog echo chamber huh.

    Pablo: New Zealand academia is in crisis. It is staffed by second rate failures who couldn’t hack it in real Univerisites (eg those in the USA) with no concept of independent scholarship or intellectual voracity and who are reduced to timeserving, yes-manning and pounding out endless vapid thinkpieces on subjects they know nothing about.

    The idea that Rod Alley, an obscure academic with zero military experience or knowledge, can comment knowingly on drone strikes, is ridiculous.

    You will see when you discuss with him that he cannot match your depth of knowledge in this area.

  26. Micawber. It would take anyone with a brain greater than the size of a walnut to see there is a difference between a pile of metal and human beings. Did anybody hold services for all those poor artillery shells that were expended during WWI on knocking out machine gun “nests”.
    The Russians won WWII for the allies through attrition of German forces.
    Your approach is the hubristic glorification of “heroes” vs the massing of forces. You are simply unable to see how technology changes everything about warfare.

  27. One of your F35 is around $125m. For that I could get 100 Chinese predators armed with 2 missiles each and around 400 decoy missiles. Your tactics would be aimed at bringing home your expensive pilot and aircraft. Mine would simply view an autonomous aircraft as ordinance. The main cost of military and civilian technology is not the intrinsic value of the parts but the cost of development. Technology is cheap to replicate but hard to develop.

  28. Your 30-40 year time horizon is simply ridiculous. It is only 10 years since the first drone was commissioned. 25 years since the invention of the internet. Growth in technology is exponential.

    Throughout history the massing of lower quality forces has proven effective than a small number of elite.

  29. The economic efficiency is very firmly with industrial scale manufacture of low cost drones. The key technological problem to solve is communication from a controller to the unit. By programming a set geographic kill zone and recognition of enemy weapons into a large number of cheap weapons it would be technologically possible now to make up for the likely jamming of communication signals

  30. Only around 10,000 Patriot missiles are declared to have been built. Every single decoy would need to be shot down just in case. The manned fighter aircraft is in a similar place to the battleship. It has been made obsolete by technology. A computer will react faster and more accurately and the cost of loss is substantially lower.

  31. New Zealand universities rank very well in global comparisons given the small size of the country. Auckland would rank in top 10 UK universities.
    Micawber you sound like a whiny progressive with an inferiority complex.

  32. Pablo – excuse the number of posts. It was only by separating one large post into a large number of smaller chunks that I was able to overwhelm your spam filter. There is a message there. :)

  33. Phil, I will leave it to Pablo to explain the sad state of NZ universities, he is better informed than me.

    As to your laughable prognostications they are the naive witterings of a military neophyte. I am sure you have read lots of masturbatory Tom Clancy books. Here is the obvious difference – a 125 million fighter has a good chance of surviving the mission, the same number of drones will all be destroyed to fulfil the same mission. Treating them as ordinance guarantees they are wasted. And this is your argument for efficiency? Utterly laughable.

    It’s true the internet is only 25 years old, although you are once again speaking out of your arse – drones are not 10 years old, the first military drones were used by the USA in Lebanon in 1986. Believe me, 30 years for drones to be capable of evading air defenses is taking into account the current advance of technology.

    Once again – why don’t you shut up about matters you clearly have no clue on? The internet is full of senseless mumblings by uninformed proles enough without you adding to it.

  34. Micawber – I will concede the earlier use of surveillance drone but as the subject was offensive capability it is only since 2001 the predator has been armed.

    You seem to mistake aggression and arrogance for effective argument. It makes you seem more like a pompous ass. Are you really saying that your fantastic F35 could destroy every single drone and decoy before it had to land? Every single time? The Tomahawk is a $1m piece of ordinance. You are sure that 99 of those and 400 drones launched against a single F35 would come off worst? 100% every time?

    For that is the statistical requirement not to be overwhelmed for the same economic cost.

  35. Phil, we were comparing which could better take out a well-defended target – 100 drones or one F-35.

    If you are talking about whether an F-35 would be able to survive an attack by one hundred drones, the answer is obviously yes, because there are no drones fitted with air-to-air armament. To illustrate this, the Tomahawk is an ASM missile – it has no capacity to take out airborne targets. No, the F-35 wouldn’t carry enough ordinance to shoot down all 100 drones, but it wouldn’t have to – it could just sail past as the drones watched ineffectively, accomplish its mission, and go home.

    You really are exposing astounding ignorance here, even for a right winger. Your scifi fantasies about air to air drones belong with dragon swords and bad romantic poetry and other creations of the ‘imagination’ of 15 year old basement dwellers.

  36. Interesting debate about drones versus manned aircraft (minus the insults) when it comes to air defenses. I think that the “swarm” theory can only apply if drone speeds and stealth increase dramatically, as they are now very vulnerable to air and land based interception.

    As I noted earlier, I think that the future of armed drones lies more in miniturization designed for tactical applications, since conventional missiles (however launched) are already capable of penetrating air defenses and destroying hardened targets. That is one problem with current UAVs like the Predator, Reaper and even Global Hawks: they are too light to carry heavy payloads and too slow and clumsy to out-manuever missile or massed fire defenses around hardened targets. That could change and clearly work is continuing on increasing drone capabilities, but I do not see the “swarm” tactic as being effective anytime soon.

    As for the state of NZ academia. The quality was much higher when I arrived in 1997. Since the imposition of the new managerial approach to university governance, the quality has dropped exponentially, and more is spent on glossy PR campaigns than entire departmental budgets. And those campaigns often contain lies: for example, the Political Studies department at Auckland now advertises that it is ranked 20-something in the world despite the exodus of most of its best staff in the last decade, and it having never been in the top 50 ever before. The claim is laughable, because there are at least 30 better political science/studies departments in the US alone, to say nothing of the rest of the world.

    Having said that, I think that Rod has represented Victoria U quite well in his writing, so disagree that he is among the losers that all too frequently inhabit contemporary NZ academia. He may not be an expert on drones but he has written well on other subjects and has usefully contributed to the NZ foreign policy debates.

  37. Couldn’t have said it better myself Pablo. Rod is an example of the biggest problem at all levels of NZ society – commentary is dominated by the uninformed. And Rod is clueless about drones, but he still feels he has a license to bang on about them. Please put him in his place at this debate.

  38. micawber. Nitpicking. I used the cost of the tomahawk as it is ordinance and similar in cost to a chinese predator in an economic argument. It says more about you than me that you think drones armed with AAM is in the realms of fantasy rather than the more simple fact that current tasks have not been against air capable enemies.

    In modern warfare between major powers a number have the ability to completely destroy the enemy. So all out war is currently extremely unlikely. Political will to act is tied very tightly to the likely number of human casualties and their effectiveness. There is a very good current example where use of drones would illustrate my point. Syria. The task is to impose a no fly zone. Would you start with F35’s and rely on their ability to react more quickly or would you send in offensive drones with AAM and ASM to overwhelm the presently unknown Russian SAM combat capability in Syria. You cannot simply bomb or send in missiles because you do not know where the air defence is hidden. Sidewinders mounted on predators against Russian migs. hmmm. The public does not care about the monetary cost of used up ordinance. They do care about pilots held hostage when they are shot down.

  39. micawber. I am genuinely curious as to why you seem so intent on pushing Pablo to attack Dr Alley for having the temerity to voice an opinion in public and why you are so scathing about my views. Pablo is engaging in an exercise to discuss use of drones that will have the effect of raising informed public awareness and knowledge. But you seem to think he should make an arsehole of himself. Why? Is it because you think only the informed elite should be “allowed” to voice opinions and then only in their areas of specialism after extended study?

  40. Oh and guru micawber, check our Pablo’s favourite research source to confirm the CURRENT air to air capability of the Predator.
    2 × AGM-114 Hellfire (MQ-1B)
    4 × AIM-92 Stinger (MQ-1B)
    6 × Griffin air-to-surface missiles[100]”

    I do believe the Stinger is an air to air missile. Lets look at the Stinger wiki page.

    “Operational history[edit]
    An Iraqi MiG-25 shot down a Predator drone performing reconnaissance over the no fly zone in Iraq on 23 December 2002. Predators had been armed with Stingers, and were being used to “bait” Iraqi fighter planes, then run. In this incident, the Predator didn’t run, but instead fired one of the Stingers after the MiG engaged with its own missiles. The Stinger’s heat-seeker probably became “distracted” by the MiG’s missile and so missed the MiG, and the Predator was destroyed. This was the first time in history a conventional aircraft and a drone had engaged in combat.”

    That makes you something. I will leave you to figure out what.

  41. Nice backtrack, Phil – I am sure your talking about tomahawks shooting down planes was indeed some kind of cunning rhetorical ploy. You continue to expect us to treat you like some kind of strategic genius because you have read a couple of wikipedia articles. You remind me of the ridiculous blowhards who masturbate over SAS novels, sound off about military tactics in the local pub, consider themselves on par with Monty or Zhukov, and are quietly convinced that, if they were put in control of the War in Afghanistan, they would do a pretty decent job of it. You are a naif in a dangerous world, but I suppose it’s good that you confine yourself to trolling Pablo.

    As for your Wikipedia link*, the fact that the drone failed to engage seems like an argument in my favour. But I’m sure, just as you claim that you never said Tomahawks could shoot down planes, you will soon be telling me that you never said that drones can shoot down planes either.

    Ultimately you are a useless troll, and I would say time will tell which of us is right, but I’m sure in five years time you will have forgotten your pathetic navel gazing and will instead be masturbating to some other military ‘strategic theory’ you got from a third rate Tom Clancy knockoff read between bouts of internet porn in your mom’s basement.

    *By the way, take my advice or leave it, but insulting Pablo by implying he relies exclusively on Wikipedia isn’t likely to be a good tactic here.

  42. guru – you really are some piece of work. I never purported to be anything other than an enthusiastic amateur. You on the other hand imply you have some amazing expertise.
    “If you are talking about whether an F-35 would be able to survive an attack by one hundred drones, the answer is obviously yes, because there are no drones fitted with air-to-air armament”.
    So 12 years ago a predator was armed with an air to air missile. Acting as bait and kind of proving my point. It did engage but was unsuccessful. If there had been 99 other predators around it programmed for counter battery type fire it would be far more likely to have been successful. Which has been my point from the start despite making some specific knowledge gaps obvious.
    You on the other hand can speak to yourself with
    “Just another of the fatuous self-important windbags”
    “As usual your naivete is staggering”
    “Time to find another blog that is more indulgent of your trolling”
    “commentary is dominated by the uninformed.. ..clueless about drones, but he still feels he has a license to bang on about them. ”
    ” I’m sure in five years time you will have forgotten your pathetic navel gazing and will instead be masturbating to some other military ‘strategic theory’ you got from a third rate Tom Clancy knockoff read between bouts of internet porn in your mom’s basement.”
    Pablo has a well known aversion to wiki. I like it because it is good public knowledge and occasionally mildly wind him up about it. He takes it in good humour. You on the other hand are clearly a cock of the highest order. Were you bullied as a child and now strike back from behind the protection of a keyboard and a username?

  43. If you’re going to stoop to personal attacks, Phil, I see no point in continuing this ‘conversation’. This blog is a place for measured and academic debate, not slinging insults. It’s a shame your fourth form home teacher didn’t explain the difference, but that’s not my problem.

  44. ” This blog is a place for measured and academic debate, not slinging insults.”
    My chin is on the floor. G.O.B.S.M.A.C.K.E.D!

    Thats what you call bait and switch. Unbelievable.
    I think we can agree that you are wrong on the substantive points which are that drone technology now is more economically effective than manned stealth planes and we do not need to wait 30 years. Nice try though.

  45. I think we should call it a day on this debate. In spite of our differences I have plenty of time for Phil, and Micawber has added some good flavor to the commentary. I see merit in both sides of the argument about drones versus manned aircraft confronting air defenses, although I think that the prospect of “swarm” drone attacks is still a ways off (although the Chinese clearly have been developing a type of swarm attack strategy using surface to surface and air to surface missiles against US naval forces off-shore, which could eventuate in the incorporation of drone attacks as part of the weapons package).

    Anyway, I have just been told that Wayne Mapp (former Defense Minister) and some academic from Victoria have joined the panel. Given the very short presentation time limits, I wonder what can really be said in any depth in an hour and a half with five panelists speaking before Q and A.

  46. You’re right Pablo, the saturation-of-defenses doctrine is a valid one – not a new one, though, it was Soviet naval doctrine since at least the Gorshkov era. But a ‘drone swarm’ is just massively inefficient – there is no point using drones to saturate defenses when missiles can do so just as effectively, and more cheaply. The main benefit of drones is their ability to loiter, which is great when fighting a low intensity conflict but not particularly useful when making a massive attack in a small time window. I would expect that drones would be more likely to serve a recon/targetting role in such a strike than making up the bulk of it. But of course you know this already.

    As for the panel, I am guessing that featherweights like Mapp are there to make lightweights like Alley look like they have some tiny sliver of gravitas by comparison.

    Ninety minutes is not even close to enough time to cover the issue with anything like the depth it needs, which simply feeds into my earlier point about the puddle-deep vapidity of what fraudulently calls itself “academia” in New Zealand.

  47. Knock the kids heads together Pablo. ;-)
    Please send my regards to Wayne, although he probably wont remember me. He will be the most qualified on the panel to discuss military issues from a NZ perspective with no disrespect meant to yourself. Dr Mapp has served in the army, been Minister of Defence and has a doctorate in international law. I would LOVE to see Micgurus qualifications in comparison to that.
    At least you will no longer have to pretend to present the conservative viewpoint.
    Will you be taping and putting a link up online?

  48. I had a good conversation with Maty, the organizer, and she clarified to me how the session will run. Wayne will comment at the end after the panelists have given their spiels.

    There are 110 people registered for the event so far, which would seem to indicate that there is a fair bit of interest in the subject. Good on Diplosphere for putting it together.

  49. +1 very much please for a live stream and/or recording. I’ve emailed Maty querying.

    If event was (or in future is) in Akl I would gladly volunteer time and equipment to deliver this.

    Pablo, sorry to hear of your spam woes. One of my roles is as a web project manager and also do a bit of coding; more than happy to assist you gratis on adding a CAPTCHA or other challenge-response solution to the comments facility. Least I can do after the years of enlightenment you’ve freely shared. Please drop me an email if this is of interest.

  50. Tommy Traddles on May 9th, 2014 at 09:01

    haha Tommy Traddles, so funny, maybe we both get banned, you have to be careful Tommy this is not an open discussion, the fool on the hill sits perfectly still and the eyes in his head see the world spinning round .

    Hi Pablo I find it very ironic that in the same post asking others not to level personal insults you describe people who disagree with you as “fools”.

  51. Paul

    You should know better than most that I consider some people fools not because they disagree with me but because of their tone, ignorance or tangental and useless digressions from the subject.

    For example, when you keep things civil (rare, I know) you are left alone. The last person to incur my ire, the hubris machine known as Hugh, quit voluntarily from commenting on my posts (much to my pleasure) but has now resurfaced upon Lew’s return to blogging.

    I really do not think that it is much to ask to keep things on topic and civil, and have already admitted several times that I have been fault for responding harshly to comments from time to time. But that is not about disagreeing so much as about thread-jacking or spouting uninformed BS on subjects I am well familiar with.

  52. yes, I will do what you say Pablo, I will try to fit in to general format, I am a refugee from Farrar, I see this is a political column, many of your people have brains bigger than mine, I don’t post troll intentionally , I just write where it leads me

  53. At the bottom of his heart he was no fool on the hill at all, , Paul Buchanan strict and disciplined as he was and is, but I bet nothing came of your poofter conference about drones Paul. I was glad you Paul had the straight forward guts, to tell us who this dog was, and the way things are, it is such relief to leave Farrar and the rednecks

  54. ” I bet nothing came of your poofter conference ”

    Jesus christ, Paul, really?

    “I am a refugee from Farrar”

    Oh, right.

  55. just joking Micawber, we have a country to run, we love New Zealand surely you realise that

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