Shortly after the end of the hot war, the cold war began, pitting the Soviet Bloc against the United States and its allies of Western Europe. This presented a military standoff, but a political, economic and social struggle, and an arms race, a major feature of which were the successful efforts of the Soviets to develop an atomic bomb of their own, and there was no secret about the prospective target for their super weapon. And lo, the competition began; the competition of whose inhumane weapon was more destructive than the other's.
Kiloton measures of destruction were surpassed by megatons, and then the atomic bomb itself was succeeded by the hydrogen bomb, and the competing inventories burgeoned until they were sufficient to destroy all humanity, perhaps even to smash planet Earth into fragments cast beyond its orbit of the Sun. The US and the Soviets each appeared quite proud of their "success," the death toll of a single of their weapons was potentially now millions of victims. Hooray, team!
This capability for mass slaughter did not go unnoticed by other nations. China, England, France, India, and Pakistan joined the competition and developed nuclear weapons of their own. South Africa took a stab at it and then decided it wasn't a good idea (Whew!) Israel is in the nuclear club, it is supposed, and North Korea is coming on strong, with Iran perhaps in early nuclear pregnancy. The nuclear league could soon have ten members potentially competing for the World Slaughter Cup, and then too there could be understandable mistakes, mini nuclear slips, don't you know.
At the same time of the big bomb competition, there was the means-of-delivery development. The first nukes were delivered by heavy bombers, and then were developed into guided missiles and developed to be launched from submarines. There were even nuclear canons, most of which we understand were delivered to American forces in Germany to point at the Iron Curtain. These were intended not as hard sites but mobile units, but there were a couple of problems.
The first problem was that too many of the German bridges lacked the load capacity to bear the massive canons' weight, thereby severely restricting their mobility. The second problem was that the crews learned that upon firing off their nuclear charges, the gunners themselves would be endangered by the blast or the fallout. Not too neat the canon program folded, a fiasco not to be much publicly discussed.
Of course, the nukes of whatever variety had other serious problems. The chief of these were the unintended destruction and casualties they would cause throughout a wide target area, including damage to facilities and areas of potential economic interest to the bombing nation itself. Many innocent people would be killed, infrastructure would be destroyed, genetic mutation could travel to succeeding generations, fall-out and contamination were difficult to contain and to clean up, and the bloody bombs themselves were expensive to manufacture and tricky to store, maintain, and dispose of, other than by murderous delivery. But the biggest problem they presented was that their use, unless it completely destroyed the enemy's capability, invited the disaster of certain retaliation. Not good at all for our side!
So the wizards of weapons invention were then directed by their masters to conjure up some new terror devices that were not so massively destructive but which were scaled to tactical field operations, and which were cheaper to manufacture and to maintain. One of the "success" stories of this endeavor was the development of tactical weapons that employed depleted uranium, and these were put to effective destructive use in Iraq in the US campaign to one way or another "bring freedom" to the natives of that country and to somehow support the proposition that "democracy was on the march."
Depleted uranium in fact worked, but there was a problem, and that was the same problem associated with the range of uranium weapons from nuclear bombs on down, which was the unintended effects it had on not only the enemy but on our own troops. But perhaps a bigger problem was the terrible publicity that these weapons prompted through the world that connected them with the effects of nuclear weapons. We haven't heard much of depleted uranium lately apparently for the most part due to the negative PR.
On to cheaper tactical and less radiant, if you will, weapons. The humane weapons inventors came up with a nifty cluster bomb. These could be laid down across a limited area and their explosion, when activated, would take out nearby targets only, thereby sparing humanity mass slaughter. There was a problem with these little beauties, however, and that was that one might well (and too often did) lie dormant perhaps beneath a bush for a year and then for instance it might be discovered by a child who would inadvertently activate it and get blown apart. These things generally would lie about as a lingering threat to the whole community. Other than the deaths they caused, their most powerful effect was in the prolonged fear of the community that suffered their presence. Here too the chief problem for the ever-sensitive weapons makers: bad publicity.
What were they weapons makers to do now? Never ones to back away from a challenge, no matter how treacherously contrived, they went into their think tanks, laboratories, tech centers, drawing rooms, and test grounds and came out of them with the Drone.
The first publicity we may recall was the utility of the Drone as a means of reconnaissance. It could be flown by remote control and without submitting a human crew to peril, even over hostile territory, and transmit images back to command centers for tactical decisions, that is, whether or not to launch a ground or piloted aircraft attack. As we might well have expected, it was not long before the wizards surmised that a remote control aircraft with imaging capabilities could also carry munitions that could be directed against imaged targets. And so the tactical, crewless, target seeking, "precision" missile/bomb weapons system was born.
And here is how neat this is: The Drone, by prearrangement, is launched, let's say, from Bagram Air Base or some other in Afghanistan, at a safe distance not too distant from its target, which is let's say in western Pakistan. After launch the management of the drone is transferred to a control center near Las Vegas, Nevada where "highly skilled" and eminently secure operators sit at computer consoles in front of screens carrying real-time images from the Drone's cameras. Our operators can then direct the course of the Drone and activate its weaponry upon a target either predetermined or of opportunity, 9,000 miles away!
How neat is this? Imagine: the world's largest and most technically sophisticated and free video-games parlor just a short distance from the Las Vegas strip, with well paid operators doing real war, who, after their shift at slaughter, return to the embrace of their families, play golf, go bowling, trim their lawns, run off to their PTA meetings, watch TV, and generally enjoy the American good life! And there is no chance that anyone well, that any of our gamester/warriors gets hurt.
But there is a hitch, or rather, two hitches. The first is that precise as these Drones can be brought in on a target the selection or the identification of the target is often fallible. Mistaken for "terrorists," innocent groups of civilians have been slaughtered by Drones. One funeral party was wiped out, the funeral ironically being for the prior week's victims of a mistargeted Drone attack. It seems that what we have is highly sophisticated and destructive weaponry afflicted by perhaps irredeemable human fallibility. Too bad for the hapless victims!
And that's pretty much where we are, or what we are allowed to know about where we are, in the more recent evolution of sophistication in our weaponry, except for the second hitch, tangentially related to the Drone. This relates to the damage that the Drone has done to the propaganda devised to engender public support for our unjustified and prolonged war in Iraq and Afghanistan. This war of lies -- which has thus far caused the death of a million-plus, mostly innocent civilians was already quite the propaganda challenge until the really creative psych-warfare folks were inspired to turn a another special set of victims into the means to attract public support for their monstrous endeavors. Forget about the mass slaughter of Muslims and channel the attention to our soldiers' plight, 5,000 of which were sacrificed in the unjustified invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Forget about all of our soldiers treacherously put in harm's way, the way we built up the sympathy machinery for these mostly kids, under the control of treacherous masters, label them patriots, and enjoin all loyal Americans to "Support Our Troops!" Millions of cars bearing bumper stickers featuring this mantra were testament to the success of the shameless propaganda.