Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 22:39 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 22:39 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: More on drones and morality

17 September 2012 11:22

This response from Steve Weintz follows a post from Sam Roggeveen and a riposte from Christian Enemark:

The effect of distance on warfare — physical, virtual or psychological — has always been with us, as has been the inevitable growth of military complexity. From single combat by tribal champion to 'don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes', proximity and accountability were essential to the satisfactory outcome of conflict. Indeed, the Japanese elite felt so strongly about this point (and about the democratization of arms) that they became the only nation to successfully ban firearms, for about three centuries.

However, the notion of professional militaries jousting at each other while scrupulously avoiding civilian bystanders went away with the French Revolution, when an entire society was mobilized and militarized. If we view the subsequent Napoleonic Wars as the high tide of set-piece battle, we then ignore the vast wave of insurgency that swept Europe from 1792 to 1815. The colonial wars of the 19th century were but an asymmetric lull between total wars, and the 20th century now seems like one Long War, fought now with armies, now with partisans, now with spies.

An enlisted drone operator now experiences the detachment from murder that a flag officer or king once felt. Assassination is a most effective method of degrading the enemy's warfighting ability, the death of Admiral Yamamoto being one example. What drones will do, along with clandestine agents, will be to truly bring the war home — everywhere. Pilots driving home to Las Vegas from Nellis AFB may already receive plainclothes police escorts (speculation; I don't know this to be the case).