Thursday, February 04, 2010

O brave new world!

From Crooked Timber:

BBC Radio 4 had a fascinating programme the other day about the use of drones in warfare by the US, British and Dutch military. It is still available at iplayer here . A guy gets in his car and drives to work in an office in Nevada. From his office he controls drones in Afghanistan. Occasionally he kills people (who can’t shoot back at him, since he’s 8000 miles away). When he’s done, he gets in his car and drives home to his wife and kids. ... Some of the people controlling drones are in the military. Some of them are civilian contractors, perhaps based in a different country to the army they’re fighting for (such as British commercial operators based in Surrey, flying surveillance drones for the Dutch in Afghanistan.)... if the Taliban contrived a way to blow up one of these operators on their daily commute in Nevada or Surrey, would it be a terrorist murder of a non-combatant or a legitimate act of war?

Image: a drone aircraft.

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Blogger Niles said...

Are the drone operators consciously and willingly committing acts of war upon the people 8,000 miles away?

Aren't Blackwater conditierri classified as civilian contractors? Are they soldiers? or terrorists?

If someone sends a pox-infected blanket to a rebellious yet immunity compromised community, but never actually visits said community in person, is that war? Or terrorism?

4:56 PM  
Blogger andrewjameslowry said...

I do find the increased use of drones interesting considering that many US military personnel are supposely reading 'Three Cups of Tea' about dealing with people in the part of the world. The message to succeed is don't kill civilians and come and sit down for three cups of tea. The first happens with drones the second is hard to do 8,000 miles away.

10:22 PM  
Blogger balian said...

I wonder whether it is our sense of fair play which is offended here. According to the Geneva convention (and I'll paraphrase), legitimate combatants must 1) Serve a sovereign authority, 2) wear military insignia, 3) obey the laws of war. The drone operator in Nevada obeys these rules; the terrorist target 8000 miles away does not.

It is a spectacular mismatch in military resources and technology. It is understandable that many might feel their sense of fair play is offended. But it is surely not required that combatants in a war adhere to the standard of resources their enemies can maintain. The object of warfare is to defeat the enemy and achieve the political objectives of the sovereign authority one serves, not to have a fair fight.

Of course, the rules must be obeyed. It seems to me that they are obeyed here, and with minimal loss to the US or, hopefully, to civilians or innocents in the Middle East.

10:13 PM  

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