War by Video: Predator Drones in Iraq, Afghanistan

by fritzg · No Comments ·

From the September issue of Atlantic Monthly:

Robert Kaplan writes,

“Yet despite their part in directing warfare, Predator pilots face absolutely no danger. In fact, as one pilot told me, the Predator raises a moral issue, by enabling you to kill someone without ever putting yourself at risk. Inside the trailers, crews don’t get even the sensation of flying that one gets in a flight simulator. The real tension for these pilots comes from the clash with everything outside the trailers.

Nellis Air Force Base is full of the same stuffy regulations—on driving, dress codes, inspections, saluting, and so forth—that are common to other bases far removed from war zones. (In war zones—inside those trailers—informality reigns because the mission is everything.) But beyond Nellis is the banal world of spouses, kids, homework, and soccer games—not to mention the absurdity of a city where even the gas stations have slot machines. Simply entering or leaving one of the trailers is tremendously disorienting.”

This raises chilling moral questions. The pilots themselves are raising them. They have the power to kill, and do, and yet are never at risk. What does it mean to be 7,500 miles from the battlefield, kill someone with the push of a button while watching a video screen, then pick up your kid from soccer practice minutes later?

I am not naive enough to believe that we will be able to create a world where war and aggression do not exist. But I can hope that we will not become so detached from our aggression that we will accept its consequences as commonplace or somehow deceive ourselves into thinking that they really didn’t happen at all.

We don’t know the horror of war in this country because we have not seen it in our streets. Those who serve in the military do know. At least they used to. Now we are creating a new generation of veterans who can not only kill the enemy from a few thousnad yards away with push of a button while sharing the battlefield with them, but who can now do that from the safety of the Nevada desert, far away from the perils of war and continue to lead their normal lives.

This desensitization to the risks and tragedies of war makes the lessons of war harder to learn and the choice to go to war easier than it should be.

When war becomes a 9-5 job, something has gone amiss. A part of what makes us human has died.

Tags: war

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