Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

May 20, 2009


Kimberly Chase, Common Dreams - In ancient times, warriors could look one another in the eye on the battlefield. War was fought with minimal weaponry, a person-to-person test of bravery and strength. Battlefields were clearly demarcated, extending only as far as an arrow could be shot or a stone could be slung.

But as the centuries advanced, so did the strategies and equipment used in human conflicts. Since then, humans have developed greater firepower, bomber planes, chemical weapons and the A-bomb, each making war at once more destructive and more distant.

Current techniques are taking these developments to the extreme, leaving the work of war to robots that soldiers control from another hemisphere. Often with thousands of miles between them, some will never see their opponents or set foot in enemy territory, much less come into direct physical combat. Like video games played over the Internet between people who know each other only in cyberspace, humans are now killing one another from opposite ends of the planet.

Proponents of remote military technologies say that lives on our side will be saved: soldiers will not have to enter extremely dangerous situations where they risk life and limb. Fewer young men will leave the armed forces with disabilities, scarred faces and battered psyches, they assert.

But critics of hyper-mechanized, remote warfare say that the distance is exactly what could also desensitize us to the harm that we are doing to others and eventually come back to bite us. They worry that remote technology could ultimately prove far more destructive, fueled by the fact that the conflict doesn't feel real at all. . .

"The general concern about many new and emerging technologies is that they create severe inequalities among those who have access to them and those who don't," says Andrew Light, Director of the Center for Global Ethics at George Mason University. He adds that this puts an added responsibility on richer countries. "The burden of proof is on those who are proponents of the technologies in question to demonstrate that those inequalities between people who have the technology and don't have the technology will not lead to excessively harmful consequences."

P.W. Singer, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the recently released book Wired for War, compares the increasing use of military robots to the invention of the atomic bomb in terms of the revolutionary impact it will have on how we conduct conflict in the future. With young soldiers fighting from Nevada instead of on the ground or from the air in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he says the field of war is changing dramatically. And while the United States is ahead now in robotic warfare, he warns there is no guarantee that this lead will last.

"We know that in technology there is no such thing as a permanent first-mover advantage," he says, adding that 43 other countries, including Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran are now working on military robots. Singer worries that the America's lag in manufacturing, science and math education puts us at a disadvantage.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a perfectly natural extension of our remote-control political systems. If we spent as much time and effort ensuring our representatives were as well-trained and prepared to follow our orders as our soldiers are, we wouldn't be embroiled in all these wars in the first place. Instead, we place control of an increasingly capable and competent military in the hands of amateur, inexperienced, self-serving, politicians.

May 20, 2009 8:58 PM  
Anonymous Mairead said...

Bingo! We have a winner here, folks.

Unless we get off our asses and take control of our country, everything will continue to be made worse for us and better for the psychopathic few.

What I want to know is: what will it take?

May 21, 2009 7:44 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home