As far as unmanned military strikes go, Drones have been used since WWI. The first version of the idea popped up in Austria in 1849, with the Austrian military attaching bombs to balloons directed toward Venice in favorable wind conditions. They weren't piloted, but the point is that the idea of unmanned military strikes has been on the drawing board for over a hundred years.
What functions do Drones serve? The American Drones in the news seek and destroy humans on land, though there are anti-aircraft Drones, bomb-detecting Drones, and reconnaissance Drones. Thus, not all Drones are created equal, and thus not all Drone operators have parallel intent. However--and this is where psychology comes in--when life isn't at risk of being expended in the process of meting out potentially lethal consequences on a target, many people, whether they be military, civilian, intellectual, or common, can detect a "temperature change" within the person with a finger on the 'launch' button.
Is it easier to inflict pain and suffering on someone who is closer in vicinity to you than someone who is further away? There are two derivatives of this argument. The first goes that people have a propensity to be "colder" the more detached they are from their target. The second was represented by Nazi Germany in that the responsibility-linkage was so broken up that upon questioning, it was rare to find a Nazi who said "I killed someone." Instead, they'd claim to have done benign technical actions, or even to have tried to help the prisoners. Ultimately, people died in gas chambers no matter if one person corralled the Jews into the chamber and dropped in the Zyklon B, or one person corralled them and another dropped the tablet. Death (and pain) were inflicted willingly, though their argument was, although disproven by Hannah Arendt, unknowingly, thus relieved of responsibility.
Issues like this are thus dangerous due to the flirtation with awareness and responsibility. When modern America drops bombs on Pakistan via Drones, innocent civilians are killed alongside of terrorists and those harboring terrorists. Yay! Wait...partial yay! Let freedom ring! This has been fairly common in this campaign, and it's a rarity for a Drone operator to abandon their post due to ethical concerns of destroying life while sipping a soy latte. (I actually just read of one Drone operator who quit because he learned of the exact amount of casualties inflicted by the Drone he controlled. It was almost two-thousand.)
This isn't just a critique on unmanned military strikes, it's also an observation that implicit within the language of the military culture is the legitimacy of killing massive amounts of people through manned strikes. As a culture--and even a world culture, due to the lack of popularity in military Drone strikes--people are more sensitive to the tenets of "honorable warfare" (see the whites of their eyes) in the resounding unwillingness to make military warfare predominantly a Drone affair. Good for humankind. However, this awareness hasn't il-legitimized the manned killing of others, which has happened for thousands of years. So maybe if warfare is going to be less prevalent and more necessity-driven, 1) More immediate sacrifices should be levied so we remain "warm" and proportionate with our warfare, and 2) We look at the manned slaughter of others with the same cynicism as we look at unmanned slaughter.
Click the RSS FEED button below to receive notification of new Orwell 365 posts.