Book review. Drones: the delusion of seeing what we want to see

 books-web

  • We kill because we can: From soldiering to assassination in the drone age, Laurie Calhoun, Zed Books, 2015.
  • Kill Chain: Drones and the Rise of High-Tech Assassins, Andrew Cockburn, Verso, 2015.
  • Unmanned: Drones, Data, and the Illusion of Perfect Warfare, William M. Arkin, Little, Brown and Co., 2015.

We Kill Because We Can is a 300-page tirade on drones from cultural critic Laurie Calhoun.  Focusing on the use of drones for targeted killing, each chapter is more or less a self-contained polemical essay, with titles such as ‘Strike First, Suppress Questions Later’ and ‘The New Banality of Killing’.  I can’t disagree at all with Calhoun’s overall argument that “both the practise of and propensity towards institutional killing has been transformed by this new technology.”  However the tone of seething rage did begin to grate after a while.  Perhaps best kept as a resource to be dipped into if your anger about drone warfare needs re-kindling. Read more

Book Review: ‘Sudden Justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars’ by Chris Woods.

READING WEEK: The final post in our short series of book reviews related to the use of armed drones.

Sudden-Justice_webThe number of books about the use of armed drones has mushroomed over the past two or three years but investigative journalist Chris Woods’ just published ‘Sudden Justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars’ sets a real benchmark for the genre and is likely to be a standard text for some time to come.

Over 300 tightly-written pages, the book traces the growing use of armed drones from the  almost ad hoc missions in the aftermath of 9/11, to their gradual acceptance in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan before spreading ‘beyond the conventional battlefield’ into Yemen, Somali and most controversially Pakistan. Weaved into this chronological story, Woods examines the multiple legal and ethical issues that surround the drone wars including the questions of targeted killing, asymmetric warfare and the civilian casualties. Read more

Book Review: ‘Drone Theory’ by Grégoire Chamayou (Trans: Janet Lloyd)

drone-theoryREADING WEEK:  The second in our short series of book reviews related to the use of armed drones.

Henrietta Cullinan reviews  Drone Theory by Grégoire Chamayou

‘One side loses people, the other side loses toys. All that is left is the shooting and the dying…..and toys don’t die.’
Toys against the People, or Remote Warfare,   Science for the People Magazine, May 1973, quoted in the Epilogue

When US armed drones, operated by teams in the Nevada desert, conduct air strikes over Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, countries the US is not at war with, when the battlefield is a ‘killbox’, when drones are only one step away from fully automated robots, it is time for philosophy to demolish the arguments put forward in support of their use. Read more

Book Review: ‘Precision Guided Munitions and Human Suffering in War’ by James E. Hickey

READING WEEK: A short series of book reviews related to the use of armed drones.

Nick Gilby reviews Precision Guided Munitions and Human Suffering in War by James E. Hickey

HICKEY PPC(240X156)pathIn this very interesting book, a member of the American military, James E. Hickey, tries to evaluate whether the use of precision-guided munitions (by the American military) has reduced the level of suffering in the conflicts he analyses. As he points out, in general throughout history technological advances have tended to increase the amount of destruction, killing and suffering in war, the development of nuclear weapons being the logical culmination of this trend. However, since the late 1960s the development in America of laser-, electro-optical- and GPS-guided (or so-called “smart”) munitions has made possible wars which lessen human suffering compared with what would have happened had conventional “dumb” munitions been used. Read more

Book Review: Precision strike warfare and international intervention

Precision Strike Warfare-coverPrecision strike warfare and International Intervention: Strategic, ethico-legal, and decisional implications. Edited by Mike Aaronson, Wali Aslam, Tom Dyson and Regina Rauxloh.  Routledge 2015

This new collection of essays on the use of armed drones, written from a variety of academic disciplines including political science, psychology, sociology, and international law, arises out of a multi-disciplinary conference held at The Centre for International Intervention (CII) at Surrey University in 2012. The book follows on and compliments the joint CII/RUSI report Hitting the Target? How New Capabilities are Shaping International Intervention which also arose out the gathering. Read more

Book Review. Unmanned: Drone Warfare and Global Security by Ann Rogers and John Hill

A version of this review originally appeared in Peace News

unammed-rogershillAs writers and analysts for one of the military’s key journals – Jane’s Intelligence Review – Ann Rogers and John Hill, the authors of this new book on remote warfare have respectable military credentials. Nevertheless much of the analysis in this important and engaging overview of the drone wars would be recognised by those with a very different perspective and understanding of the efficacy of military force.

Chapter by chapter the book investigates the key aspects of the use of armed drones including tracing their history, the effect on military doctrine, ethical and legal issues, the impact on the ground and the push towards greater autonomy.

Drones, the book contends are helping to normalise the use of States “targeting individuals with military-scale force” and blurring the lines between law enforcement and military action giving rise to what the authors call nano-wars. They state: “the serious battering of just war conventions by US drone strikes contributes to a new set of norms that are likely to be regressive to the causes of peace and international stability.” Read more