Marge Van Cleef, a long-time anti-drone war organizer in Philadelphia, provides this review of a remarkably insightful book.
“A Theory of the Drone” by Gregoire Chamayou
2015, New Press, N.Y. $26.95, hb
Chamayou shows how drones are influencing what it means for a “democracy” to wage war. This question is presented and developed with a depth of intelligence and psychological insight that surpassed, for me, much of the material I've read that deals with the technology of drones and their present and future use in war. The author/scholar, in a unique take on the subject, argues that a state, the U.S. in particular, has claimed the right to make war across the globe.
Chamayou quotes philosophers Kant and Hegel who each wrote about the nature of combat. He makes the important point that there is a gulf between soldiers and their antagonists, or “enemies,” in drone warfare. The warrior is not connected to the weapon itself except through a computer screen and keyboard. He/she engages in targetted assassinations without facing the combatant. And perhaps the “moral hazard” is the fact that there are no consequences for the “killers.” The “decider's” life is not at stake. In conventional warmaking there is a moment when the shooter must decide whether to “shoot” or “not shoot,” thus facing his/her “common humanity.” The drone rules out the possibility of such a relationship.
Another advantage for the military use of drones is the fact that if there are no U.S. casualties fewer soldiers are needed in the “field.” Thus it is not necessary to have a military draft and more drones can be deployed.
Chamayou deals in depth with the inevitable issues related to a “democracy” waging war. We know that Pres. Obama and the CIA Director, John Brennan, meet weekly to determine who will be targetted for assassination in one of the countries where “terrorists” are thought to live or visit. This is not war by proclamation of Congress. Martin Luther King spoke of militarism as a threat to democracy. Surely the secrecy in warfare use of drones poses such a threat.
In reading the book I reached new conclusions on the particularly vicious and insidious use of drones, how their use will dehumanize us even more as the U.S. government continues to expand its military power globally.
I recommend Chamayou's book. Local libraries may have copies or will order them.
Submitted by Marge Van Cleef, Phila. Area Anti-drone Network firstname.lastname@example.org