Since their invention in 2001, the military use of drones has only escalated. Drones can be used either for surveillance, or to launch missiles and bombs. Unlike other military aircraft that are limited by their human pilots, these unmanned robots can be constantly on patrol. Eliminating risk to a soldier's life, and operated by someone in an office thousands of miles away, drones can be used in pre-planned missions to conduct "targeted" killings.
Such "convenient killing", however, is not only inhuman but diabolical. How is making killing easier to be considered "better," as many argue?
Our built-in aversion to killing, as David Grossman says, is steadily eroding under the guise of technological progress. If, however, as he argues, video games and television destroy our "violence immune system", then what about drone operators, who for all practical purposes end up adopting a PlayStation mentality? All they have to do is shoot the moment blips are on the screen.
Drone technology breeds a drone mentality toward life; it cannot help but incite a terrible irreverence for human life and a complete destruction of moral duty. Whenever science supersedes conscience, we end up, as Charles Darwin put it, with "no wishes, no affections— a mere heart of stone."
Oppenheimer, who headed up the Manhattan Project, once remarked, "When you see something that is technically sweet you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success." The result? Martin Luther King Jr. observed that instead of true greatness, we end up "genuflecting before the god of science only to find that it has given us the atomic bomb, producing fears and anxieties that science can never mitigate."
Yes, drones may make it convenient to kill, but dangerously so. For with drones the reality of war and death becomes entirely fictitious for those doing the killing. Removed from our own hands and placed into the hands of governments, isolated from our minds behind machinery operated by technocrats, our instruments of death have become unreal. And, as one commentator put it, we have convinced ourselves of the "the fiction that we are no longer fighting a war." In other words, we are simply employing technology. In reality, however, real lives around the globe are being ruined and destroyed.
Drones are dangerous because they make violence more likely, not less. Military casualties may have declined in recent years, but as we know from the last century, and with the "blessings" of technology, civilian deaths have increased drastically.
When we rely on complete automation to kill, our very humanity is not only destroyed but entire segments of society are risk. If drone technology can be "patterned and even piloted with an iPhone," as recently reported in the Harvard National Security Journal, then what future 9/11s may we or others have to face?
If our "marvellous" technology can make it more convenient to kill, then it has become a false god. Evil cannot be overcome with evil, as the Apostle Paul writes, but only with good. Drones may be "sweet", but so was the fruit in the Garden. They do not nor will not make our world a better place.
Sources:Cole, Dobbing, Hailwood, Convenient Killing, FOR Report, September 2010.
Grossman, David, "Trained to Kill," 1998.
Harvard National Security Journal, "Lawyers: A Predator Drone's Achilles Heel?" by Brett H McGurk, March 11, 2010.