Drone Wars

Weapons and Warfare

In May 2013, President Barack Obama gave a long-anticipated speech at the National Defense University, at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., in which he said it was time to bring the war on terror to a close. “This war, like all wars, must end,” he said, and quoted the 1795 warning by James Madison, who stated, “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” It was President Obama’s first war speech of his second term.

In the context of the history of the modern American war machine—the advanced science and technology of which is spearheaded by DARPA—there was significance in the president’s words and symmetry in the locale. It was here at Fort McNair that, fifty-five years earlier, twenty-two defense scientists gathered to produce ARPA Study No. 1, the first of thousands of secret and unclassified DARPA studies outlining which weapons would best serve the United…

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