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Obama taking heat for asking for US drone back? Pay little heed.

The loss of a stealth drone that was spying on Iran isn't the disaster some make it out to be. And if you think Obama's request for it back was awkward, remember what JFK did after we lost a spy plane.

By Staff writer / December 15, 2011

This photo released on Dec. 8, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and taken at an undisclosed location claims to show the US RQ-170 Sentinel drone which Tehran says its forces downed earlier this week. President Obama is taking heat for his request that Iran return the plane.

Sepahnews/AP

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In a scoop today, Scott Peterson and an Iranian reporter who asked not be identified report that the US spy drone that Iran displayed on television last week may have been hacked into by Iranian electronic warfare specialists and brought to a controlled landing on an Iranian military base in Kashmar.

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Their source is an Iranian engineer who says he's working to unlock the secrets of the RQ-170 Sentinel Drone – a $6 million unmanned aerial vehicle that looks like a baby version of the stealth bomber – particularly the electronic eavesdropping and control mechanisms of the bird. While the US has remained silent so far on the account, if it holds up, it will be be more reason to ignore the American politicians and ideologues who are seeking to make political gains from the loss of the drone. 

The drone, flying out of a US base in Afghanistan, went dark to its US operators as it flew over Iran, seeking to spy on the country's nuclear program. The loss of the drone – whatever the cause – has caused the usual array of posturing and heavy breathing. 

This week Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney suggested that Obama's decision to not "destroy it or go get it" was "an enormous mistake" and "incomprehensible." The "go get it" bit of his comment seems to imply a limited invasion of Iran of some sort.

He was far from the only one to try to score political points over what was an air mishap involving a $6 million drone. Fellow Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum implied the US should have sent troops to retrieve the drone in the last Republican debate. Former Vice President Dick Cheney also said the US should have bombed the site where the drone went down. The consideration that even limited bombing of Iran – given US efforts to rally tougher international sanctions against the Iranian nuclear program, particularly from the reluctant Russians and Chinese – might be counterproductive to US interests seems to have hardly crossed any of the critics' minds.

Uber-hawk Max Boot, a pundit who supported the Iraq war and generally tilts towards armed confrontation with Iran, mocked Obama's request that Iran return the plane. "I am pretty sure... that the president’s request the Iranians return the drone was dopey and humiliating," Boot writes.

Well, one man's "dopey and humiliating" is another man's "what could it hurt?" A simple request does little damage. Other options aren't as safe. 

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