Drone warfare’s deadly civilian toll: a very personal view by James Jeffrey writing in The Guardian.
Political theorist Hannah Arendt described the history of warfare in the 20th century as the growing incapacity of the army to fulfil its basic function: defending the civilian population. My experiences in Afghanistan brought this issue to a head, leaving me unable to avoid the realization that my role as a soldier had changed, in Arendt’s words, from “that of protector into that of a belated and essentially futile avenger”. Our collective actions in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 were, and remain, futile vengeance – with drones the latest technological advance to empower that flawed strategy.
Drones are becoming the preferred instruments of vengeance, and their core purpose is analogous to the changing relationship between civil society and warfare, in which the latter is conducted remotely and at a safe distance so that implementing death and murder becomes increasingly palatable.
Another worthwhile article is this from Ron Rosenbaum at Slate Ban Drone-Porn War Crimes where he argues that ‘Killing “criminals” with drones is a war crime and ‘Death by joystick is immoral and illegal’.
I think the technological ‘elegant solution’ of killing by remote control is taking us places in ethics and morality that we haven’t been before. I remember Robert McNamara in his film ‘The Fog of War’ talking about the terrible disproportionate carpet bombing of Europe and Japan that the US carried out in WW2, saying if they lost the war they’d be seen as war criminals. Sobering.
Certainly, these drones give their owners (the US and sub-licensee UK, according to James Jeffrey above) an ability to be judge-jury-executioner in a secret war in undeclared places (Predator drones used in Somalia? Did you know?).
It’s one thing for people like ME to question this. Given the recent and impending deployment of people I care deeply about to the war zone in Afghanistan, crikey, I would much rather a robot went. And if that robot could be be remote-controlled from Virginia, or Germany or RAF Waddington Lincolnshire rather than Kandahar … all the better.
These lethal drones are growth industry — a new branch of the arms race. More are in production in the US and, naturally, being copied by Chinese and Israeli companies for sale to markets the US won’t supply.
Whatever, the premise: ‘If a weapon can be made, it will be made. If it is made, it will be used’ applies.
And the ethics catches up later, if at all.
Germany is building its own unmanned fleet: The Bundeswehr’s New Drone – German Air Force Unveils Powerful Spy Plane (Der Spiegel)