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November 11, 2018

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While the World Looks the Other Way: Drone Warfare, the Silent Conflict

February 22, 2017

IMAGE VIA THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE 

"I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are grey." With these words a Pakistani child strikingly expresses his fear of clears skies, taken over by attack drones that fly constantly above the trembling population of countries such as Pakistan. These aircraft have taken center stage in international debate in the last few years, yet have been pushed aside in the face of the results of the most recent American election and growing geopolitical tensions. The use of drones has been a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s national security approach, meaning to separate the United States from direct military involvement in areas of conflict. This has been a highly controversial practice that has brought about heated discussions on the ethical and strategic implications of drones for modern warfare or threat management. In the anticipation of the new Trump Administration, the concern over the application of such methods and uncertainty as to the extent to which they will be employed must not be pushed aside.

 

The use of attack drones for “targeted killings,” not only disregards the sovereignty of the countries they overfly, but also serves to dehumanize the killings themselves, making the possibility of surrender almost nonexistent, war cheaper, and killing easier. Currently ,as a new wave of terrorism becomes an increasingly pressing reality in the wake of the attacks on Paris and numerous bombings in Baghdad among others, military level clashes outside of the state of war are becoming a new normal. Precisely, the use of drones in this context tends to augment exponentially. This, as Paul Kahn notes, is primarily due to the fact that the pursuit of national interests by military means is mostly restrained by the expectation of loss. Yet, the “body bag syndrome” is a constraint that is removed altogether though the use of drones. Thus, we may understand them as a technology that effectively manages to remove some of the last political barriers to war.

 

The reality is that public scrutiny must not look away from a practice that threatens to undermine human rights and civilian distinctions in conflict. With a new political era within the United States, we must not forget the wars that are waged in silence, and those who suffer from them.

 

Note: part of this op-ed was submitted in ICADE Business School as an analysis on new security challenges and warfare practices.

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