The quest to develop and refine technologically advanced means to commit mass homicide continues on, with Pentagon tacticians ever eager to make the military leaner and more lethal. Drone swarms already exist, and as insect-facsimile drones are marketed and produced, we can expect bug drone swarms to appear soon in the skies above places where suspected “bad guys” are said to reside—along with their families and neighbors. Following the usual trajectory, it is only a matter of time before surveillance bug drones are “upgraded” for combat, making it easier than ever to kill human beings by whoever wishes to do so, whether military personnel, factional terrorists, or apolitical criminals. The development of increasingly lethal and “creative” means to commit homicide forges ahead not because anyone needs it but because it is generously funded by the U.S. Congress under the assumption that anything labeled a tool of “national defense” is, by definition, good.
To some there may seem to be merits to the argument from necessity for drones, given the ongoing military recruitment crisis. There are many good reasons why people wish not to enlist in the military anymore, but rather than review the missteps taken and counterproductive measures implemented in the name of defense throughout the twenty-first century, administrators ignore the most obvious answer to the question why young people are less enthusiastic than ever before to sign their lives away. Why did the Global War on Terror spread from Afghanistan and Iraq to engulf other countries as well? Critics have offered persuasive answers to this question, above all, that killing, torturing, maiming, and terrorizing innocent people led to an outpouring of sympathy for groups willing to resist the invaders of their lands. As a direct consequence of U.S. military intervention, Al Qaeda franchises such as ISIS emerged, proliferated, and spread. Yet the military plows ahead undeterred in its professed mission to eliminate “the bad guys,” with the killers either oblivious or somehow unaware that they are the primary creators of “the bad guys.”
Meanwhile, the logic of automation has been openly and enthusiastically embraced as the way of the future for the military, as in so many other realms. Who needs soldiers anyway, given that they can and will be replaced by machines? Just as grocery stores today often have more self-checkout stations than human cashiers, the military has been replacing combat pilots with drone operators for years. Taking human beings altogether out of the killing loop is the inevitable next step, because war architects focus on lethality, as though it were the only measure of military success. Removing “the human factor” from warfare will increase lethality and may decrease, if not eliminate, problems such as PTSD. But at what price?
Never a very self-reflective lot, war architects have even less inclination than ever before to consider whether their interventions have done more harm than good because of the glaring case of Afghanistan. After twenty years of attempting to eradicate the Taliban, the U.S. military finally retreated in 2021, leaving the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (as they now refer to themselves) in power, just as they were in 2001. By focusing on how slick and “neat” the latest and greatest implements of techno-homicide are, those who craft U.S. military policy can divert attention from their abject incompetence at actually winning a war or protecting, rather than annihilating, innocent people.
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