Stephen L. Schooner and Nathaniel E. Castellano review Richard Whittle’s Predator: The Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution. The authors highlight the cast of quirky characters that drive the narrative element of Whittle’s book while recounting the ethical dilemmas, national security issues, and bureaucratic challenges that attend one of the nation’s most successful weapons development programs. The authors conclude with an enthusiastic endorsement of the book regardless of the reader’s expertise in military affairs.
When a nation deploys ground forces, an inverse relationship exists between the number of military deaths and public support. This stark and monolithic metric, which economists call the “casualty sensitivity” effect, requires close examination today. On the modern battlefield, contractor personnel die at rates similar to — or indeed often in excess of — soldiers, yet the U.S. public and Congress remain largely unaware of this “substitution.” This article explains the phenomenon, identifies some of the challenges and complexities associated with quantifying and qualifying the real price of combat in a modern outsourced military, and encourages greater transparency.