The New Face of War means difficult choices for democracies
Large fortified bases and vast armies are being replaces with drones – and it’s changing the very nature of warfare.
That’s the conclusion of Dr. Marc Pilisuk, an award winning peace scholar and faculty member in Saybrook University’s Social Transformation program. Writing in the new 2013 issue of “The Peace Chronicle,” the newsletter of the Peace and Justice Studies Association, Pilisuk’s article “The New Face of War,” raises questions about what the rise of drones means for both the battlefield and the home front.
“Drone warfare makes responsibility for killing more difficult to trace,” Dr. Pilisuk writes. “Are assassinations without trial the new standard. Does killing remotely make the decision to do so easier? Does use by civilian entities eliminate regard for rules of engagement? Does secrecy of such operations make them less accountable to the public in whose name they are deployed? Difficult as these issues may be, they appear but preludes to weaponry that can not only kill robotically but also make decisions to do this without the opportunity for human discretion.”
It may be easy for Americans to ignore these issues when they’re on far away battlefields, but Dr. Pilisuk says they’ll have to confront them at home soon – both because forms of military drones are likely to show up in domestic law enforcement efforts, and because drones appeal to our enemies as well.
“(W)eapon systems typically provide incentives for those lacking them,” he writes. “The DOD has studied drone development activities in Al-Qaeda and in Columbia’s FARC.”
The result is that humanity is facing another moment much like the deployment of nuclear weapons: when instead of turning back we depended on a doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction to save us from extinction.
Do we have another doctrine to save us in the era of drones? Dr. Pilisuk doesn’t see one yet – and suggests that this is a precipice we’d be wise to step back from.
“A world in which every person and group can be the object of continuous surveillance and can be targeted at the behest of a program designer employed as a contractor for a clandestine government agency is eerily Orwellian,” he wrote. “If there was ever a need to insist upon the precautionary principle to save the human society we know, now is the time.”
Marc Pilisuk, PhD, is the editor of the 2011 three volume anthology of the global peace movement “Peace Movements Worldwide,” and the author of “Who Benefits From Global Violence and War: uncovering a destructive system.” He was the recipient of the Peace and Justice Studies Association’s 2012 Howard Zinn Lifetime Achievement Award.