“Confessions of a Drone Warrior,” is one of hundreds of articles on the military’s use of Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAV), which began in the early 2000s. In many ways this new form of combat embodies the psychological distancing that typifies killing in the twenty-first century. The story about Airman First Class Brandon Bryant recounts his first day in a Nevada bunker, when the 22-year fired on two presumed Afghani insurgents on the other side of the world. An early recruit in this new kind of warfare, Bryant “hunted top terrorists, but always from afar” –– killing enemies in countless numbers, but not always sure what he was hitting. “Meet the 21stcentury American killing machine,” the story concluded.[i]
Of course, notions of aversion to fighting don’t sit well with either military doctrine or public belief. Behind America’s infatuation with high-tech weapons lie long-cultivated attitudes toward violence itself. In a class I teach on this, students often will express common sense views that fighting is “natural,” deriving from humanity’s animalistic origins, and often the only way of resolving conflicts. One sees this kind of thinking evident in permissive attitudes toward everything from boyish rough-housing to violent sports. The gendered aspects of violence receive less attention than they should, and will be addressed at length in Chapter 9. Suffice to say that aggression often is expected of men and boys, while also reflected in popular culture. Along with political partisanship, these attitudes help explain the deep divisions within the U.S. electorate over gun control and so-called “stand your ground” laws. Since even scholars often disagree over the issue of human violence, it helps to break the question into subcategories –– and to also point out how knowledge has changed over time in the fields of biology, psychology, and cultural analyses of violent behavior.
In building drones that kill people, the U.S. has a couple-decade head start on China.
But when it comes to domestic uses, U.S. businesses are hamstrung because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) isn’t required to issue commercial drone rules until 2015. The Atlantic carries a story about this:
“One of China’s biggest delivery companies is tinkering with using drones—with Chinese government permission. SF Express is testing a drone it has built for delivering packages to remote areas, according to Chinese media reports. The drone can hit an maximum altitude of 328 feet and deliver parcels within two meters of its target. It’s not clear what sort of weight these puppies can handle, but Beijing journalists calculated that it probably can’t carry more than 6.6 pounds.
T”he news broke yesterday morning, after a Sina Weibo user noticed what looked like a UFO hovering above a street in Dongguang, in southern China, and after noticing a SF Express logo, posted images online. In July, a Shanghai bakery launched aerial cake delivery—or “pie in the sky,” as the Telegraph put it (video below). However, as an anonymous government official told the Shanghai Daily at the time, businesses that want to use drones must be granted approval from the local civil aviation authorities first. The bakers forgot to do that, apparently. However, the Dongguan police said that, except during certain sensitive times, commercial operators who receive permission from the civil aviation regulator and air traffic control are allowed to fly drones. SF Express says it’s strictly complying with the policies.
“Drone delivery undoubtedly has a certain appeal to the Chinese authorities, who are increasingly struggling to control both traffic and pollution in China’s major cities. On top of that, e-commerce is growing much faster than delivery infrastructure in rural and mountainous parts of China, such that logistics systems are emerging as a big area of investment. In fact, a consortium including CITIC Capital took a 25 percent stake in SF Express in late August. Continue reading “China begins using drones”
It’s no secret that lots of killing is begin done today, not directly by people, but by machines such as remotely controlled drone aircraft.
A new global campaign to persuade nations to ban “killer robots” before they reach the production stage is to be launched in the UK by a group of academics, pressure groups and Nobel peace prize laureates, reports today’s edition of The Guardian.
“Robot warfare and autonomous weapons, the next step from unmanned drones, are already being worked on by scientists and will be available within the decade, said Dr Noel Sharkey, a leading robotics and artificial intelligence expert and professor at Sheffield University. He believes that development of the weapons is taking place in an effectively unregulated environment, with little attention being paid to moral implications and international law. Continue reading “Invasion of the killer robots”
As if there was any doubt, official statistics show more deadly drone strikes against Afghanistan in 2012 than the U.S. has ever done anywhere. As Danger Room reports,
“Last month, military stats revealed that the U.S. had launched some 333 drone strikes in Afghanistan thus far in 2012. That made Afghanistan the epicenter of U.S. drone attacks — not Pakistan, not Yemen, not Somalia. But it turns out those stats were off, according to revised ones released by the Air Force on Thursday morning. There have actually been 447 drone strikes in Afghanistan this year. That means drone strikes represent 11.5 percent of the entire air war — up from about 5 percent last year.
“Never before in Afghanistan have there been so many drone strikes. For the past three years, the strikes have never topped 300 annually, even during the height of the surge. Never mind 2014, when U.S. troops are supposed to take a diminished role in the war and focus largely on counterterrorism. Afghanistan’s past year, heavy on insurgent-hunting robots, shows that the war’s future has already been on display.
Since President Obama took office in 2008, the CIA has killed 2,500 people with robotically controlled drones run by technicians housed in remote trailers. Anticipating a possible new regime in Washington, the administration accelerated work on a set of guidelines to give a new president standards and criteria for future killings. It’s worth noting, that 70 percent of the deaths have been civilian casualties, according to TruthOut (See, “Civilian Deaths From US Drone Attacks Much Higher Than Reported”