Thursday, May 07, 2009

Robotic Warfare

They were talking about drones on NPR today. I was once again struck by a problem that sounds at first blush to be insensitive and harsh and that you will seldom hear voiced:

Soldiers dying in combat is a good thing.

One of the reasons that war is so universally held to be bad and evil is because of the human cost of life. The key component to a war is people dying...on both sides. When one side can remove the human life element, when one side has sufficient might and muscle that it no longer needs to sacrifice its own citizenry to engage in armed conflict, then it loses the necessary and appropriate specter of that conflict: its dead citizens.

While we do have soldiers fighting and dying for us, more and more we are relying on combat techniques designed to minimize casualties while inflicting maximum loss on an enemy. This is perceived and trumpeted as the good of saving lives. It is in fact bad. It distances us from the effects of warfare. For the cost of a handful of American lives, we can kill hundreds of thousands. The disgust of that statement, both in terms of the death represented and the casual dismissal of the loss of some Americans as trivial is palpable.

War is bad. If we get to the point that we risk nothing in a war, will we perceive it as good?

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