Monday, February 27, 2012

As Far Away As Possible

Trey Smith

Since the dawn of the nation-state -- maybe even earlier than that -- we humans have engaged in acts of war. War is waged for a wide variety of reasons, but coveting another group's territory and/or resources is chief among them. It was that way in the ancient world and it is that way today.

As long as we have been warring between and amongst ourselves, one of the greatest objectives of war has centered around the calculation of how to inflict the most damage on the "enemy," while exposing your side (at least, the "important" people) to the least possible amount of damage and injury. This objective is the prime motivation behind the development of weaponry.

I bet the first time someone hurled a rock with a sling, the folks on the receiving end said, "Whoa! We better figure out how they did that or we're going to be goners for sure!" The bow and arrow or the catapult meant that your fighting forces could inflict casualties without standing toe-to-toe with your adversary.

As civilization has advanced through the years, so too have our weapons. Guns took warfare to a completely different level. Hand grenades and flamethrowers caused greater amounts of carnage. Still, soldiers had to be in the near vicinity to employ these types of weapons and that meant they continued to be exposed to immediate retaliation.

To limit this ongoing exposure, we developed cannons, mortars, tanks and the like. This moved us further away still, but not far enough. Dropping bombs from aircraft flying high above the earth has become a reliable means for wreaking death and destruction, but planes can be shot out of the air.

Next came precision-guided missiles that can be fired from hundreds or thousands of miles away. While these projectiles are decidedly lethal and greatly limit our exposure, we have come to realize that they removed one important element from our bloodlust: We have pushed ourselves so far away that we can't "enjoy" the results of our handiwork. We only can see the aftermath; we have lost the ability to revel in the thrill of watching someone's head blown off.

And this brings us to war by drone. We have developed drones to give us the best of both worlds. On the one hand, since drones can be controlled from thousands of miles away, our exposure is negligible. The operator of a drone has a far greater chance of being killed on the highway or in his or her own bathtub than in the theater of war.

On the other hand, because drones are equipped with high-tech cameras, we get to see the devastation wrought in real time. While the operator conceivably could be sitting there in his undershorts with a martini in hand and porn on his iPhone, he can watch nameless men, women and children be obliterated in seconds! Good shot, Morrison. High fives all around!

In my book, this is why drones are so immoral. They make a statement about us as a people and that statement is grotesque and ugly. It's not enough that we want to kill and maim with abandon; we want to watch and cheer it as it if we simply are sitting in our living rooms watching American Idol or the World Series!

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