Book Review: ‘The Humanitarian Impact of Drones’

  • The Humanitarian Impact of Drones, edited by Ray Acheson, Matthew Bolton, Elizabeth Minor, and Allison Pytlak,  Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), 2017

The Humanitarian Impact of Drones is, as Chris Heynes says in the preface, “a most welcome contribution to a vital debate,” chiefly because it extends beyond the legal lens used to consider the rights and wrongs of particular targeted killings, often the criticism which dominates the debate on the use of armed drones. Instead, split in to two parts, the report covers broader humanitarian ‘impacts’ and ‘perspectives.’ It includes its fair share of discussion on the impacts of targeted killings and the legal perspectives on these actions but chapters range from the impact on peace and security and the environment, to gender-based and religious perspectives. Throughout, the chapters are interspersed with case studies from countries or regions, relating to the various topics covered. The report moves between practical, theoretical and legal frameworks to offer a comprehensive understanding of the nature of drone warfare in its fullest sense. Read more

Book Review: ‘Swarm Troopers’ by David Hambling

‘Swarm Troopers’ has been around for a while, but nevertheless deserves reviewing and remains a worthwhile read and an important contribution to writing on drones and warfare.  It was originally published in December 2015, yet in this fast moving field we are already beginning to see some of the outcomes that author David Hambling predicts taking shape.

“The future will bring new generations of increasingly capable small drones at ever lower costs.  Large numbers of them will be more formidable opponents than the handful of armed Predator / Reaper drones currently in service.”

This is the central thesis of ‘Swarm Troopers’: that in the modern world there is a trend for things to get smaller yet more powerful; that Read more

Book Review: ‘Military Robots: Mapping the Moral Landscape’ by Jai Galliott

jai-galliottThe use of military unmanned systems, commonly known as drones, has begun to be one of those subjects with which a variety of popular and academic commentators have utilised to discuss a range of divergent topics. The number of books that actually focus in granular detail on unmanned systems themselves and the consequences of their use can be counted more or less on one hand. Thankfully Jai Galliott’s work can now be added to that number.

Focusing on ethics, Military Robots: Mapping the Moral Landscape, reviews the relevant arguments for using unmanned systems and examines the key criticisms under the broad lens of just war theory. In many ways the book is an extended dialogue with the Bradley Strawser edited volume ‘Killing by Remote Control: The Ethics of Unmanned Military and Christian Enemark’s ‘Armed Drones and the Ethics of War’, both key works but coming from very different perspectives.

Key issues with which Galliott usefully grapples include the implication of reduced risk for users of unmanned systems Read more

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