The Fields of War Are Changing, for Better or Worse?

The Unmanned Hunters That Rule the Battlefield

An MQ-9 Reaper drone gearing up for takeoff. (Credit: U.S. Air Force)

Imagine you’re playing the latest first-person shooter video game. The game revolves around you and your team using modern weaponry to kill enemy players. You’ve just rounded a corner and with a few skillful shots from your weapon, you’ve dispatched one of the enemy. How do you feel? You probably won’t feel a thing. It’s just a video game, after all. The soldiers running around shooting one another aren’t real.

Now imagine yourself behind the controls of a very deadly, long-range strike drone. You’re safe in your chair thousands of miles away from the aircraft, and you just fired a high-payload strike missile into the middle of a residential area. The objective is destroyed, but it takes civilians with it. Now the question is, how do you feel? You’ve just killed tens, maybe more civilians as well as enemy combatants. Do you feel awful? Do you feel nothing?

That is the question many people have asked about the use of drones in the military, and one I’ve asked myself. Recently, militarized drones have played a large role in overseas warfare. It’s a brand new kind of warfare, one that takes the soldier out of the battlefield and places him far out of harm’s way, and precise strikes are possible. However, those two points lie at the very center of the entire debate.

Ever since the war on terror began, drones have played an ever-increasing role in the military. The most common drone, the Predator, is armed to the teeth with high-power missiles and bombs. It was claimed that these drones would be able to pick and choose who will die. But in Scott Shane’s article titled “Drone Strikes Reveal Uncomfortable Truth: U.S. Is Often Unsure About Who Will Die”, Shane states that “Gradually, it has become clear that when operators in Nevada fire missiles into remote tribal territories on the other side of the world, they often do not know who they are killing, but are making an imperfect best guess.” Even with the best intelligence available, drone strikes aren’t 100% certain on eliminating the target. In the same article, he states that “Mr. Obama declared that no strike was taken without “near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.” He added that “nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties” and said “those deaths will haunt us as long as we live.” This confirms that even though these drone strikes may seem to be the perfect solution, they are in fact not, and still stand to kill civilians merely by accident.

An article titled; “The Drone Debate We Are Not Having”, Neania Buehler claims “The ability to engage in military conflicts minus the soldiers on the battlefields creates a kind of virtual reality. If war begins to look like a video game, then decisions to use force will be made flippantly…. Our eyes will glaze over at the sight of war on our televisions, much as they do for the teenage boy glued to his video game console.” This is a very disturbing thought. To think that the bloodbath that is war would be viewed as nothing more than images on a screen is horrifying. These are real lives we are talking about. Lives that are being destroyed, families torn apart. We should absolutely not treat war as a game where nothing is real, and there is no weight on our conscience.

War is war, and we should not treat it as anything but. Lives are taken, and we should not brush that off as if it is nothing. Especially when people who have nothing to do with the situation are caught in the crossfire. Though there is large downsides to using these drones, there is two sides to every story. Finding out if the benefits are worth the cost is key to deciding if this is how we want our military to move forward. For that reason, we should delve deeper into how these drones affect warfare.

Works Cited:

1) Buehler, Neania. “The Drone Debate We Are Not Having.” Modern War Institute. N.p., 08 Dec. 2016. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.

2) Shane, Scott. “Drone Strikes Reveal Uncomfortable Truth: U.S. Is Often Unsure About Who Will Die.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Apr. 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.