Fighting through Robots

The rise of the unmanned drone in warfare has chiefly been due to the fact that the loss of a drone merely translates to a loss of money, not lives. The US Department of Defence has never been strapped for cash, and it is under the gun so to speak when dead soldiers arrive home in flag draped coffins.

President Obama need only give his National Security team a nod and somewhere around the world a drone releases hellfire against some hapless insurgent — or civilian. It’s difficult to tell which. Warfare of this kind maybe to easy, and when it is at the discretion of politicians the very nature of it gets lost in a moral vacuum. In 1998 President Clinton was in a bit of a quandary as Monica Lewinsky was due to return to the Grand Jury. He needed to look as boldly ‘Presidential’ as possible, and if possible bury whatever news coverage she was getting in an avalanche from abroad.

He decided to order the bombing of the Al-Shifa factory in Sudan, which he claimed was manufacturing weapons in connection with Osama bin-Laden. Further justification deployed by the US was that it was retaliation for the bombing of two US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The distance between Sudan and those countries is over 1000 kilometers, and 2000 kilometers respectively. It turns out that the factory was not building weapons, rather it was the only factory in the depressed country to be making aspirin and other medicines. Tens of thousands of people in Sudan died as a result of the sudden amputation of their medical supply. It turns out the evidence used by the US was provably false, and the bombing was thus at the whim of a pornographic opportunist who had no hesitation in using US air power for political gain. And they want to elect his wife President now. To read more about this tawdry case in history, go here.

John Oliver recently did an in depth critical analysis of the use of drones on his show, Last Week Tonight. The ease of their use, and the security those in power have for  using them stands in stark contrast to the daily life of civilians in the countries watched by drones. One woman in Pakistan told of how terrified she was of a clear blue sky, because the drones are there — utterly invisible. To watch that segment of Oliver’s show, go here.

This is the mental journey we have to make, particularly if we are in favour of drones. It is easy and not even life threatening for us to wage war, but not so from the other side. Having empathy with the enemy is vital to the success of a military engagement, and if we can’t put our minds in the place of one who fears daylight, whose family is being killed indiscriminately by the evils of ‘collateral damage’, and who is willing to die for their struggle, we shouldn’t be surprised when our actions abroad don’t work out, and things seem to get worse.

With a flick of the pen the dogs of war let slip unmanned
With a flick of the pen the dogs of war let slip unmanned

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