Banquet’s ghosts

I’ve just finished a remarkable book by Atef Abu Saif, The drone eats with me: diaries from a city under fire (Comma Press, 2015).  The city in question is Gaza:

The Drone Eats With Me COVER IMAGE-Atef Abu SaifOn 7 July 2014, in an apparent response to the murder of three teenagers, Israel launched a major offensive against the Gaza Strip, lasting 51 days, killing 2145 Palestinians (578 of them children), injuring over 11,000, and demolishing 17,200 homes.

The global outcry at this collective punishment of an already persecuted people was followed by widespread astonishment at the pro-Israeli bias of Western media coverage. The usual news machine rolled up, and the same distressing images and entrenched political rhetoric were broadcast, yet almost nothing was reported of the on-going lives of ordinary Gazans – the real victims of the war.

One of the few voices to make it out was that of Atef Abu Saif, a writer and teacher from Jabalia Refugee Camp, whose eye-witness accounts (published in The Guardian, The New York Times, and elsewhere) offered a rare window into the conflict for Western readers. Here, Atef’s complete diaries of the war allow us to witness the full extent of last summer’s atrocities from the most humble of perspectives: that of a young father, fearing for his family’s safety, trying to stay sane in an insanely one-sided war.

Over at the electronic intifada Pam Bailey explains:

Although already the author of four novels and a political science text, Abu Saif did not write this book with publication in mind. Rather, it began as entries to his diary, printed only after Ra Page, founder of Comma Press, recognized the potential in the passages shared by his friend in Gaza.

The writing alternates between poignant simplicity and dramatic flourishes and haunting metaphors. Abu Saif often uses a comparison to hunger and eating to describe the rapaciousness of war and those who “feed” off of it. “Destruction is a rich meal for the media,” he writes. “Their camera does not observe the fast of Ramadan, it devours and devours. It is constantly eating new images.”

The diary begins on 6 July — two days before the officially declared beginning of the war — with this chilling observation: “When it comes, it brings with it a smell, a fragrance even. You learn to recognize it as a kid growing up in these narrow streets. You develop a knack for detecting it, tasting it in the air. You can almost see it. It lurks in the shadows, follows you at a distance wherever you go. If you retain this skill, you can tell that it’s coming — hours, sometimes days, before it actually arrives. You can’t mistake it. War.”

KAFKA Metamorphosis

I’ve been asked to speak on drones later this year at a conference at UC Santa Barbara on Metamorphosis: Animal, Human, Armor – the image above is from the extraordinary British film of Kafka’s novella: you can catch a clip on YouTube here – and no doubt partly for this reason I too have been taken by the ways in which, as Pam notes, Abu Saif turns again and again to tropes of human-machines feeding (captured in the title of the book too).  I’d read parts of the diary as it was being composed – see here, for example – but the imaginary of predation is now even more compelling and even more shocking:

As the noise of the explosion subsides, it’s replaced by the inevitable whir of a drone, sounding so close it could be right beside us. It’s like it wants to join us for the evening, and has pulled up a chair.

Later:

The food is ready. I wake the children and bring them in. We all sit around five dishes: white cheese, hummus, orange jam, yellow cheese, and olives. Darkness eats with us. Fear and anxiety eat with us. The unknown eats with us. The F16 eats with us. The drone, and its operator somewhere out in Israel, eat with us.

More once I’ve worked out what I want to say at the conference, but for now there is a particularly thoughtful review and response to Abu Saif by Jacob Bacharach at The Rumpus here.

Base lines and military projections

David Vine has updated his map of the global footprint of the US military over at Politico.

VINE US military bases

I used an early version for my ‘War and Peace’ essay (DOWNLOADS tab), and that map – like this one – was drawn primarily from the annual Base Structure Report, a summary of the US military’s ‘real property inventory’ (all sites owned and managed by the Pentagon).  It’s an unwieldy document which uses a high threshold to filter inclusion:

To qualify for individual entry in the BSR, a DoD site located in the United States must be larger than 10 acres AND have a Plant Replacement Value (PRV) greater than $10 million. If the site is located in a foreign country, it must be larger than 10 acres OR have a PRV greater than $10 million to be shown as a separate entry. Sites that do not meet these criteria are aggregated as an “Other” location within each state or country.

Iraq doesn’t appear in these tabulations – though it is shown on the map – yet the continuing US involvement in the conflict there and across the all-but-erased border in Syria has surely extended its footprint.  As David notes,

‘There were 505 bases at the U.S. occupation’s height, but the Iraqi parliament rejected the Pentagon’s wish to keep 58 “enduring” bases after the 2011 withdrawal. U.S. forces have occupied at least five bases since 2014 and are considering more installations.’

Afghanistan is absent too: ‘By the end of 2014 … the U.S. military will have closed, deconstructed, or vacated most of what were once around 800 military installations, ranging from small checkpoints to larger combat outposts to city-sized bases.’  But the US military retains a significant presence there, and its drones are still based there to support continuing military operations and to attack targets across the border in Pakistan.

There are also strategic omissions.  There’s no mention in the Base Structure Report of Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, for example, which is the location of US Central Command’s Combined Air and Operations Center.

(You can find more from David on the history of America’s ‘infrastructure for war’ in the Middle East here and on its ‘lily-pad’ strategy here).

There are all sorts of issues involved in measuring a ‘military footprint’ – see my post here and Josh Begley here (who works from the previous year’s Base Structure Report for FY 2013 to produce a radically different visualization) – but for all its uncertainties, David’s map is a sobering snapshot, and he relies on supplementary sources to conclude:

Despite recently closing hundreds of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States still maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad—from giant “Little Americas” to small radar facilities. Britain, France and Russia, by contrast, have about 30 foreign bases combined.

By my calculation, maintaining bases and troops overseas cost $85 to $100 billion in fiscal year 2014; the total with bases and troops in warzones is $160 to $200 billion.

VINE Base Nation

When I first contacted David, his original map formed part of his scorching investigation into Diego Garcia: Island of Shame: the secret history of the US military base on the island of Diego Garcia (Princeton, 2009; paperback 2011: all royalties went to the Chagossians); the new version forms part of an even more ambitious project, Base Nation: how US military bases abroad harm America and the world (Metropolitan Books, 2015):

American military bases encircle the globe. More than two decades after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. still stations its troops at nearly a thousand locations in foreign lands. These bases are usually taken for granted or overlooked entirely, a little-noticed part of the Pentagon’s vast operations. But in an eye-opening account, Base Nation shows that the worldwide network of bases brings with it a panoply of ills–and actually makes the nation less safe in the long run.

As David Vine demonstrates, the overseas bases raise geopolitical tensions and provoke widespread antipathy towards the United States. They also undermine American democratic ideals, pushing the U.S. into partnerships with dictators and perpetuating a system of second-class citizenship in territories like Guam. They breed sexual violence, destroy the environment, and damage local economies. And their financial cost is staggering: though the Pentagon underplays the numbers, Vine’s accounting proves that the bill approaches $100 billion per year.

For many decades, the need for overseas bases has been a quasi-religious dictum of U.S. foreign policy. But in recent years, a bipartisan coalition has finally started to question this conventional wisdom. With the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan and ending thirteen years of war, there is no better time to re-examine the tenets of our military strategy. Base Nation is an essential contribution to that debate.

There is a long history of struggles against the presence of US military bases overseas – Catherine Lutz‘s edited collection, The bases of empire: the global struggle against US military posts (New York University Press, 2009) remains an indispensable starting-point.

Of course, the US military is also omnipresent in the United States, with installations in all 50 states and seven territories.  The Base Structure Report includes this summary:

DoD sites JPEG

And these bases have brought their own problems and spawned their own protests too.

 

War against the people

I’ve long admired Jeff Halper‘s work with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (though to me, haunted by the passages from The poetics of place that Edward Said invokes in Orientalism,  ‘home demolition’s would carry even more resonance: it’s so much more than buildings that the Israelis so brutally turn to rubble).

ICAHD

Jeff’s classic, even canonical essay on ‘the matrix of control‘ (see also here) was a constant reference point for my chapters on occupied Palestine in The Colonial Present, and on my first visit to the West Bank I was part of a group that Jeff generously spent a day showing the materialities of military occupation and illegal colonisation: you think you know what you’re going to see, but all the reading in the world can’t prepare you for what Israel has done – and continues to do – to the people of Palestine.

the-matrix-of-control

So I’m really pleased to hear from Jeff that his new book, War against the people: Israel, the Palestinians and global pacification, will be out in September (from Pluto Press in the UK and via the University of Chicago Press in the USA):

Modern warfare has a new form. The days of international combat are fading. So how do major world powers maintain control over their people today?

HALPER War against the peopleWar Against the People is a disturbing insight into the new ways world powers such as the US, Israel, Britain and China forge war today. It is a subliminal war of surveillance and whitewashed terror, conducted through new, high-tech military apparatuses, designed and first used in Israel against the Palestinian population. Including hidden camera systems, sophisticated sensors, information databases on civilian activity, automated targeting systems and, in some cases, unmanned drones, it is used to control the very people the nation’s leaders profess to serve.

Drawing from years of research, as well as investigations and interviews conducted at international arms fairs, Jeff Halper reveals that this practice is much more insidious than was previously thought. As Western governments tighten the grip on their use of private information and claw back individual liberties, War Against the People is a timely reminder that fundamental human rights are being compromised for vast sections of the world, and that this is a subject that should concern everyone.

I’ve noted before the ways in which Israel has used its continuing occupation of Palestine as a laboratory to test new technologies of military violence – and as a series of test cases designed to push the envelope of what is permissible under international humanitarian law and even international human rights law – but here Jeff radicalises the argument to develop a deeply disturbing vision of what he calls ‘securocratic wars in global battlespace’.  It’s vitally necessary to remember that later modern war is not the exclusive artefact of the United States and its military-academic-industrial-media (MAIM) complex, and that what happens in Israel/Palestine has desperately important implications for all of us.

Many commentators have claimed – I think wrongly – that one of the new characteristics of war in the twenty-first century is that it has become ‘war amongst the people’: as though No Man’s Land on the Western Front was somehow roped off from the gas attacks and shells that assaulted farms, villages and towns behind the front lines, for example, and air raids were limited to exclusively military-industrial targets.  Even if we confine ourselves to the trajectory of ostensibly modern warfare and track forward through the Second World War, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia…. the story is the same: modern war has long been fought amongst the people (though increasingly amongst ‘their’ people).  The deconstruction of the battlefield, as Frédéric Mégret calls it, is clearly visible in Palestine and is inseparable from its globalization.  It’s hardly surprising, then, that ‘war amongst the people’ should so easily turn into what Jeff describes as ‘war against the people’.

Here is the list of contents:

Introduction : How Does Israel Get Away With It?

Part I: The Global Pacification Industry
1. Enforcing Hegemony: Securocratic Wars in Global Battlespace

Part II: A Pivotal Israel
2. Why Israel? The Thrust Into Global Involvement
3. Niche-Filling in a Global Matrix of Control

Part III: Weaponry of Hybrid Warfare and Securocratic Control (Niche 1)
4. Niche 1: Weaponry of Hybrid Warfare and Securocratic Control
5. Dominant Maneuver
6. Precision Engagement

Part IV: Securitization and “Sufficient Pacification” (Niche 2)
7. Niche 2: The Securocratic Dimension: A Model of “Sufficient Pacification”
8. Operational Doctrines and Tactics

Part V: Serving Hegemons Throughout the World-System
9. Serving the Hegemons on the Peripheries: The “Near” Periphery
10. Security Politics on the “Far” Periphery
11. The Private Sector

Part VI: Domestic Securitization and Policing
12. Serving the Core’s Ruling Classes “At Home”

Conclusions: Mounting Counterhegemonic Challenges and Resisting Pacification
Resisting Capitalist Hegemony and Pacification: The Need for Infrastructure
Resistance to Pacification: Focusing on the MISSILE Complex

Disposable futures

EVANS and GIROUX Disposable futures

News from Brad Evans of a new book co-authored with Henry Giroux, Disposable futures: the seductions of violence in the age of spectacle (out next month from City Lights).

Disposable Futures makes the case that we have not just become desensitized to violence, but rather, that we are being taught to desire it.

From movies and other commercial entertainment to “extreme” weather and acts of terror, authors Brad Evans and Henry Giroux examine how a contemporary politics of spectacle–and disposability–curates what is seen and what is not, what is represented and what is ignored, and ultimately, whose lives matter and whose do not.

Disposable Futures explores the connections between a range of contemporary phenomena: mass surveillance, the militarization of police, the impact of violence in film and video games, increasing disparities in wealth, and representations of ISIS and the ongoing terror wars. Throughout, Evans and Giroux champion the significance of public education, social movements and ideas that rebel against the status quo in order render violence intolerable.

You can read the preface and an excerpt from the first chapter here, and you can get a taste of their argument from their op-ed for Truthout in June 2014 here, where they explain why they decided

‘…to develop a paradigm that focused on the intensification of what we called the politics of disposability. This requires taking our analysis beyond 20th century frames of analysis to look at the ways in which more and more individuals and groups are now considered excess by the onslaught of global forces that no longer offer the possibility of alternative futures. It talks precisely to those contemporary forms of disposability that have become so normalized; the burden of the guilt is placed on the shoulders of the victims, while the most pernicious of systemic abuses continues to hide things in plain sight. And it develops a critical angle of vision that goes well beyond the mere authentication of lives as simply born vulnerable to question the systemic design for oppression and exploitation that produces humans as some expendable category…

‘There is something, however, more at stake here than the contemporary plight of those millions forced to live in intolerable conditions. What makes the contemporary forms of disposability so abhorrent is precisely the way it shapes disposable futures. The future now appears to us as a terrain of endemic catastrophe and disorder from which there is no viable escape except to draw upon the logics of those predatory formations that put us there in the first place. Devoid of any alternative image of the world, we are merely requested to see the world as predestined and catastrophically fated. Frederic Jameson‘s claim then that it is easier to “imagine the end of the world than it is the end of capitalism” is more than a reflection on the poverty of contemporary imaginations. It is revealing of the nihilism of our times that forces us to accept that the only world conceivable is the one we are currently forced to endure: a world that is brutally reproduced and forces us all to become witness to its spectacles of violence that demand we accept that all things are ultimately insecure by design. In this suffocating climate, the best we can hope for is to be connected to some fragile and precarious life support system that may be withdrawn from us at any moment. Hope has dissolved into the pathology of social and civil death and the quest for mere survival. For if there is a clear lesson to living in these times, it is precisely that the lights can go out at any given moment, without any lasting concern for social responsibility. This is simply the natural order of things (so we are told) and we need to adapt our thinking accordingly.’

And, as always, you can find much more on these themes over at Brad’s History of Violence project (and particularly the Disposable Life series of lectures here).

Future imperfect and tense

A clutch of forthcoming books on war that seek, in different ways, to illuminate dimensions of what I’ve been calling ‘later modern war’:

Antonia ChayesBorderless Wars (due in August at an eye-popping price from Cambridge University Press):

9781107109346In 2011, Nasser Al-Awlaki, a terrorist on the US ‘kill list’ in Yemen, was targeted by the CIA. A week later, a military strike killed his son. The following year, the US Ambassador to Pakistan resigned, undermined by CIA-conducted drone strikes of which he had no knowledge or control. The demands of the new, borderless ‘gray area’ conflict have cast civilians and military into unaccustomed roles with inadequate legal underpinning. As the Department of Homeland Security defends against cyber threats and civilian contractors work in paramilitary roles abroad, the legal boundaries of war demand to be outlined. In this book, former Under Secretary of the Air Force Antonia Chayes examines these new ‘gray areas’ in counterinsurgency, counter-terrorism and cyber warfare. Her innovative solutions for role definition and transparency will establish new guidelines in a rapidly evolving military-legal environment.

Christopher Coker‘s Future War (due in September from Polity):

COKER Future WarWill tomorrow’s wars be dominated by autonomous drones, land robots and warriors wired into a cybernetic network which can read their thoughts? Will war be fought with greater or lesser humanity? Will it be played out in cyberspace and further afield in Low Earth Orbit? Or will it be fought more intensely still in the sprawling cities of the developing world, the grim black holes of social exclusion on our increasingly unequal planet? Will the Great Powers reinvent conflict between themselves or is war destined to become much ‘smaller’ both in terms of its actors and the beliefs for which they will be willing to kill?

In this illuminating new book Christopher Coker takes us on an incredible journey into the future of warfare. Focusing on contemporary trends that are changing the nature and dynamics of armed conflict, he shows how conflict will continue to evolve in ways that are unlikely to render our century any less bloody than the last. With insights from philosophy, cutting-edge scientific research and popular culture, Future War is a compelling and thought-provoking meditation on the shape of war to come.

Brian Massumi‘s Ontopower: War, Powers, and the State of Perception (due in September from Duke University Press):

MASSUMI OntopowerColor coded terror alerts, invasion, drone war, rampant surveillance: all manifestations of the type of new power Brian Massumi theorizes in Ontopower. Through an in-depth examination of the War on Terror and the culture of crisis, Massumi identifies the emergence of preemption, which he characterizes as the operative logic of our time. Security threats, regardless of the existence of credible intelligence, are now felt into reality. Whereas nations once waited for a clear and present danger to emerge before using force, a threat’s felt reality now demands launching a preemptive strike. Power refocuses on what may emerge, as that potential presents itself to feeling. This affective logic of potential washes back from the war front to become the dominant mode of power on the home front as well. This is ontopower—the mode of power embodying the logic of preemption across the full spectrum of force, from the “hard” (military intervention) to the “soft” (surveillance). With Ontopower, Massumi provides an original theory of power that explains not only current practices of war but the culture of insecurity permeating our contemporary neoliberal condition.

Wastelands

Global Peace Index 2015 JPEG The Institute for Economics and Peace has issued its Global Peace Index for 2014.  There are all sorts of problems in calculating indices like these – and interpreting them (as you can see if you read some of the press releases and reports surrounding the publication of the GPI) – and in this case:

The Global Peace Index is a composite index comprised of 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators that gauge the level of peace in 162 countries. These indicators can be grouped into three broad themes: the level of safety and security in a society, the number of international and domestic conflicts and the degree of militarisation.

Crunching the numbers,  the Institute concludes that

Syria remains the world’s least peaceful country, followed by Iraq and Afghanistan. The country that suffered the most severe deterioration in peace was Libya, which now ranks 149th of 162 countries. Ukraine suffered the second largest deterioration…

Its President, Steve Killelea, explained that:

2014 was marked by contradictory trends: on the one hand many countries in the OECD achieved historically high levels of peace, while on the other, strife-torn nations, especially in the Middle East, became more violent.

What the Report doesn’t pursue are the close links between those two trends; and when you look at the map you will soon realise that being ‘peaceful’ is not the same thing as not being belligerent… But the Report does emphasise the absurdist cost of all this violence (while noting that much more is at stake than money): ‘The economic impact of violence reached a total of US$14.3 trillion or 13.4% of global GDP last year.’ You can download the full Report here or find the interactive map (screenshot at the head of this post) here. UNHCR World at War 2014 JPEG On the same day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees published different maps in World at War that provide a radically different calculus of the cost of such violence.  Writing in the New York Times Somini Sengupta reports:

Nearly 60 million people have been driven from their homes by war and persecution, an unprecedented global exodus that has burdened fragile countries with waves of newcomers and littered deserts and seas with the bodies of those who died trying to reach safety. 0745631649The new figures, released Thursday by the United Nations refugee agency, paint a staggering picture of a world where new conflicts are erupting and old ones are refusing to subside, driving up the total number of displaced people to a record 59.5 million by the end of 2014, the most recent year tallied. Half of the displaced are children. Nearly 14 million people were newly displaced in 2014, according to the annual report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In other words, tens of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes every day and “seek protection elsewhere” last year, the report found. That included 11 million people who scattered within the borders of their own countries, the highest figure ever recorded in the agency’s 50-year history. Tens of millions of others fled in previous years and remain stuck, sometimes for decades, unable to go home or find a permanent new one, according to the refugee agency. They include the more than 2.5 million displaced in the Darfur region of Sudan, and the 1.5 million Afghans still living in Pakistan.

Populations of concern to UNHCR to end 2014 And the map reveals a starkly different bi-polar geography to the division highlighted by the GPI:

When refugees flee their own countries, most of them wind up in the world’s less-developed nations, with Turkey, Iran and Pakistan hosting the largest numbers. One in four refugees now finds shelter in the world’s poorest countries, with Ethiopia and Kenya taking many more refugees than, say, Britain and France. As the report states, “the global distribution of refugees remains heavily skewed away from wealthier nations and towards the less wealthy.”

Refugees hosted 2014 JPEG You can download World at War here.

A world of proliferated drones

CNAS A world of proliferated dronesA new report from Kelley Sayler at the Center for a New American Security, A world of proliferated drones, starts to map what she calls ‘the likely contours of a drone-saturated world’.  The report emphasises that the United States does not have a monopoly on drones  – more than 90 states and non-state actors have them – but unusually the report pays close attention to the repurposing of small, commercial off-the-shelf drones.  It begins by summarising their capability for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance:

‘Current commercial drone technologies – available for purchase in either pre-assembled or customizable, component form – enable a number of high-end capabilities that were formerly the monopoly of major military powers.

Many commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) drones – including the best-selling model, the DJI Phantom – are now equipped with GPS and waypoint navigation systems. These systems enable the drone to accurately determine and hold its position, in turn removing the need for line-of-sight communications and allowing for autonomous flight… Operators of pre-assembled systems can also take advantage of smartphone-based control systems, dramatically improving ease of use. Such systems enable the user to navigate the drone simply by selecting a destination on a map or even by merely tilting the user’s phone…

High-definition video cameras are also widely available on COTS drones and, when combined with video downlinks, can provide real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to multilocation receivers, though these capabilities are often limited by range and battery life.’

The report emphasises the potential weaponisation of these small drones for what it calls ‘overmatch’, in effect reversing the terms of asymmetric warfare, through (for example) the development of ‘flying IEDs‘:

‘While such systems may not appear sophisticated in a traditional military sense, ground-emplaced IEDs have caused thousands of American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan and proved profoundly hard to defeat. Drones will enable airborne IEDs that can actively seek out U.S. forces, rather than passively lying in wait. Indeed, low-cost drones may lead to a paradigm shift in ground warfare for the United States, ending more than a half- century of air dominance in which U.S. ground forces have not had to fear attacks from the air.  Airborne IEDs could similarly be used in a terrorist attack against civilians or in precision strikes against high-profile individuals or landmarks.’

But the report also makes much of the US’s continued military-industrial investment in high-end drones.  Here various forms of stealth technology make much of the running, or at least issue most of the promissory notes, since today’s Predators and Reapers can only operate in more or less undefended air space – which is another way of saying they can only be used against the weak and/or with the complicity of other states (as in Pakistan and Yemen) – and face immense difficulties in what the US Air Force calls A2/AD [anti-access/area-denial] environments (see here and here). But I’m particularly interested in what the report has to say about the use of large military drones to act as communications relays.  Here the emphasis is on the ability of these remote relays to integrate what is otherwise often remarkably un-networked warfare and to extend the range of operational control and transmissable data.

Drones as communication relays (CNAS)

‘Large military-specific systems offer a number of additional improvements in communications capabilities. Many include wide-band satellite communications (SATCOM) that expand the amount and extend the range of transmittable data, providing distant ground stations with real-time ISR. Like some baseline systems, high-end systems are generally capable of line-of-sight communi- cations with other platforms operating in their area and, for this reason, are often employed as communications relays. Perhaps the most vivid example of the force-multiplying effects of such capabilities is the EQ-4 – what is essentially an RQ-4 Global Hawk outfitted with the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN). BACN serves as a universal translator for a diverse set of U.S. aircraft that are not otherwise capable of communicating with each other due to incompatible data links – providing a vital connection between, for example, fourth-generation F-16 fighter jets, B-1 bombers, and stealthy, fifth-generation F-22s [BACN is also used on conventional platforms: see here for its role in co-ordinating an air strike in Afghanistan]. Communications relay capabilities will also allow states to operate drones at extended ranges (300 to 800 kilometers) without satellite communications, allowing significant penetration into neighboring countries or contested areas’ (my emphasis).

Steve Graham and I are presently working on an essay on drones and satellite communications: so much of the discussion of geospatial intelligence has focused on satellite imagery, but the geographies of satellite communications (and, crucially, bandwidth) play a major role in the deployment of drones and in the highly variable quality of the imagery they transmit to users across the network.