Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 79

DRONES, HONOR, AND WAR expert David Kilcullen, who served as adviser to Army Gen. David Petraeus, contends that “using robots from the air … looks both cowardly and weak.”6 George Monbiot, who writes for The Guardian, claims that “with its deadly drones, the United States is fighting a coward’s war.”7 Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Policy Dr. Andrew Exum, a former U.S. Army officer who advised Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan, explains: “There’s something about pilotless drones that doesn’t strike me as an honorable way of warfare.”8 The allegation seems to be that a weapon that eliminates the possibility of personal risk for the perpetrator is, by definition, dishonorable. Marine Sgt. Matt Walje, writing on ethics and war, argues that “drone strikes are a kind of ambush kill, an ambush where the killer is invulnerable,” adding that “the manner in which drone strikes are carried out has a dishonorable feel, encouraging the dehumanization of the enemy, and in this way, assisting the operators and their leadership in assuaging the blood guilt that follows a kill.”9 Foreign policy journalist Glenn Greenwald agrees: Whatever one thinks of the justifiability of drone attacks, … [attacking by drone is] one of the least ‘brave’ or courageous modes of warfare ever invented. It’s one thing to call it just, but to pretend it’s ‘brave’ is Orwellian in the extreme. Indeed, the whole point of it is to allow large numbers of human beings to be killed without the slightest physical risk to those doing the killing. Killing while sheltering yourself from all risk is the definitional opposite of bravery.10 Ed Kinane, an antidrone activist in New York, argues that aerial warfare is cowardly in general, and that drones “raise cowardice to new heights.”11 Rev. Kenneth Tanner, an antidrone activist from Michigan, claims that drone violence is particularly dishonorable: There’s something dishonorable about killing without the risk associated with the act …. If you must kill to defend against killers … I believe the only honorable way to do it is to risk your own death or the death of those you love in the effort.12 Does killing without risk violate the warrior code of honor and bravery? MILITARY REVIEW  November-December 2015 Armed drones, however effective they may be militarily, are taken by critics to reflect the frailty of the culture that uses them. The machines are the weapons of the weak, in this narrative, protecting the fearful from sacrifice and danger. If the drone symbolizes the safe, uncommitted, and even cowardly modern approach to warfare, the “traditional” emerges as the risky, committed, and brave. German journalist Dirk Kurbjuweit expresses this sentiment clearly: A suicide bomber needs to be 100 percent willing to sacrifice his life. With a drone pilot, on the other hand, the risk of pilot death drops to zero percent. … It’s a war between those who are willing to sacrifice everything and those who are unwilling to give up anything—a war of sacrifice versus convenience, bodies versus technology and risk versus safety.13 The claim is that the U.S. military is hiding behind its technological superiority because American society is not actually able to fight a war that necessitates commitment, sacrifice, and risk. The predator can never be the prey, and this shows feebleness, rather than strength. The drone, therefore, is supposed to represent the trepidation to face death in battle, and an attempt to bypass an ancient martial ethos. There is also the suggestion that the post-9/11 wars have created a generation of “cubicle warriors” that are not as courageous as the soldiers of the past, or as the soldiers against whom they fight. Drones, the idea is, have turned our fighters into office workers immersed in the drudgery of the mundane.14 Instead of showing their military strength physically, instead of risking and sometimes sacrificing their bodies, and instead of committing completely to war, drone pilots are removed from harm’s way. This situation is diametrically opposed to the romantic notion of war as a battle of the brawn, where hand-to-hand combat, bravery, and high risk prove physical strength and superiority.15 The place for romantic notions of masculine heroism dissipates. Drones are a mode of killing that cannot threaten the body of the perpetrator. This position of tremendous power can be conceptualized as a weakness. An alternative to the “cubicle warrior” image has also emerged in the antidrone discourse, and that is the drone pilot as a “gamer.” Controlling a drone is likened to playing a video game. The idea is that the drone 73