“There is value toÂ having an unmanned aerial system teamed withÂ a manned system,” Gen. James McConville, Vice Chief ofÂ Staff ofÂ the US Army, said atÂ the National Defense Industrial Association’s 2018 Army Science & Technology Symposium and Showcase inÂ Washington, DC, Tuesday. But, he warned, “it’s not a panacea.”
McConville noted duringÂ his presentation that watching a screen fromÂ inside a tactical operations center is “not the same asÂ actually being thereâ€¦ When you are working withÂ unmanned systems, you’ve got toÂ be careful that you don’t believe that you know everything that is going on.”
Activist Leah Bolger agrees withÂ that: drones allow wars toÂ be conducted withoutÂ the combatants actually facing each other, and that’s no good thing. In drone warfare, “we don’t really know who we’re killing. We don’t know what the damage is. We don’t know who those people are, or all the ‘collateral damage,’ asÂ they use that euphemismÂ â€” the people who are actually killed,” she told Sputnik Thursday.
“Drones are a really good example ofÂ something that’s not just ineffective, it’s countereffective; because every time you kill a personâ€¦ then his extended family and his children’s children are also going toÂ become, now, your enemy,” Bolger, chair ofÂ the coordinating committee ofÂ World Beyond War and retired military officer, said. “So it creates enemies faster thanÂ it can kill them. It’s illegal, it violates all kinds ofÂ international law aboutÂ Geneva conventions and the UN charter, and it costs so much money that could be spent onÂ human needs. So it’s inhumane inÂ that way too.” Bolger has spent time researching US drone strikes and speaking withÂ victims ofÂ US drone warfare.
According toÂ McConville, “You still need soldiers onÂ the battlefield; drones don’t smell, they don’t feel. If you are watching me here onÂ video, you don’t get the same feeling asÂ if you are inÂ the crowd, and it’s the same thing inÂ combat.”
Bolger would argue that no, the US doesn’t need soldiers onÂ the battlefield. “There are several reasons toÂ oppose war inÂ general, and the same reasons apply toÂ drones, and the first one inÂ my mind is the immorality ofÂ itâ€¦ toÂ kill each other inÂ order toÂ resolve differences is absurd and it’s obsolete, and that’s why we don’t have duelling anymore, because it’s idiotic toÂ think that that’s how you’re going toÂ solve a problem. So it’s immoral, it’s ineffective, it doesn’t solve anything.” But asÂ the Department ofÂ Defense continues toÂ make war, it will certainly continue toÂ make drones, McConville’s statements notwithstanding. “I don’t think it is something that anti-drone activists should see asÂ a real positive sign,” she said. McConville’s not calling drone warfare immoral or illegal, simply not a be-all, end-all.
The Department ofÂ Defense loves drones “because American lives are not atÂ riskâ€¦ The only thing that resonates withÂ the American public is if American lives are lost.” Bolger said. “And withÂ drones, that’s why everybody loves them. The DoD loves them, the White House loves them, and that’s the wave ofÂ the future.”
She noted how Defense Department officials boast that “we’re going toÂ spend a lot ofÂ money, this is the future ofÂ warfare, we’re going toÂ use these unmanned systems, working withÂ manned and unmanned together, and maybe unmanned and unmanned together.”
“Congress just approved a 700-plus billion dollar ‘defense’ budget and a lot ofÂ money forÂ drone technology, and all the drone manufacturers are now getting richer and richer. And it’s not just the United StatesÂ â€” dozens ofÂ countries have drones, many countries have armed drones, and it’s justÂ â€” it’s a Pandora’s box.” And withÂ the US using drones toÂ drop bombs onÂ countries it’s not even technically atÂ war withÂ â€” Pakistan being one exampleÂ â€” how long will it be beforeÂ this practice spreads?
“I don’t see a closing ofÂ that Pandora’s Box atÂ all,” Bolger said.