The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is now a standard component in the arsenal of warfare used by United States military forces. They have been used extensively in Iraq to “pacify” the insurgents without risking the lives of U.S. troops; this was especially case in Sadr City. Currently, UAVs are being used in both Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.
These highly technical devices require a complex infrastructure involving satellites and GPS and communications channels able to handle staggering amounts of information Images from a drone can be relayed instantly to a laptop with the ground unit, a command center located miles away, and to imagery analysts thousands of miles away. They are products of the technological age.
Currently there are over 1200 UAVs within the staggering U.S. military arsenal (in one estimation the US military budget – 607 billion dollars – represents forty-one percent of the world total and higher than the combined expenditures of the remaining nine countries in the top ten). These devices can deliver lethal weapons of mass destruction to targets from instructions sent from a laptop half a world away. The command and control procedures for these weapons have been compared to playing video games.
UAVs are not simply a technological breakthrough; they represent a new concept in the very idea of warfare. The death and destruction that is the obvious outcome of war can be sanitized, for the carnage that is unleashed by these robotic killing machines can be viewed dispassionately from great distances on LCD monitors. Those who produce mayhem and death can accomplish this through keystrokes and are “spared” the unwholesome prospect of seeing the results of their labor – the blood and bones and shattered skulls and viscera, the stench of death and the anguish of mothers over the death of their children. These technicians, who take their orders from the military strategists who project military power, can go home from a day of work without having to come to grips with the stark reality of what they do. The act of destroying life and creating suffering without feeling any emotional or ethical repercussions is, in my mind, the essence of evil.
Warfare of this nature foretells an ominous trend in the future prospects for mankind. War made easier and less costly for those who possess the economic power to devise and produce such weapons will make the prospect for a peaceful world even more remote than it currently is.