Saturday 09 Oct 2021 | 05:05 | SYDNEY
Saturday 09 Oct 2021 | 05:05 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Drone wars

2 November 2011 15:48

Crispin Rovere responds to this Sam Roggeveen comment:

The fact that weapons can now be launched over Libya from a base in Las Vegas is morally not that different to having a pilot do it from 40,000 feet. The recent advent of drone warfare is just another stage in the development of precision-guided munitions."

Crispin's reply:

I disagree. Drones are a complete break from the past in one critical respect. All throughout human history, going to war meant physically getting up and actually going some place. It meant saying goodbye to friends and family, deploying to some distant battlefield, with at least the nominal knowledge you could die overseas, if only by some unfortunate accident. Political leaders were compelled to justify deployments, and long separations of loved ones.

Now you get up in the morning, drive 40 minutes to your office in Nevada, kill large numbers of people, then race to pick up the kids from the school in the afternoon. This is a profound shift psychologically, and certainly politically. Nowadays you have a drone campaign conducted by a civilian intelligence agency, completely out of the public eye, so intensive the US president has his most decorated General leading it.

Drones are not just some linear technological step, but a transformation that creates a permissive political environment in which to utilize lethal force as an instrument of state policy. The long-term impact of which, either psychologically or politically, has not yet been fully understood.

Photo courtesy of the US Air Force.