The White House estimated that during Barack Obama’s administration, between 64 and 116 civilians had died in drone strikes, and between 2,372 to 2,581 combatants. The deaths occurred in 473 strikes from January 20, 2009 to December 31, 2015. In this immensely thought provoking and engaging book, Gregoire Chamayou dwells at length about the ‘philosophical’ and ‘ethical’ implications attached to the employment of drones for furthering acts of aggression. Writing with verve and passion on what he terms the ‘Narcoethics’ of drone warfare, Chamayou comes up with a sophisticated polemic about the wanton damage to person and property caused by indiscriminate use of these unmanned weapons of Arial terror.
Justifications for the use of drones abound as Defense Secretaries, high ranking military personnel, robotics experts, scientist’s et al wax eloquent about the ethical use and moralistic premise underlying the employment of these hovering birds of death. De-linking the combatant from the combat relieves the drone operators from the feelings of guilt, horror, retribution, revenge and similar other cathartic emotions that otherwise assail soldiers engaging the enemy on a battlefield. A drone operator with the use of high resolution images and advanced GPS techniques tracks his prey like a predator wallowing in the luxury of an air conditioned chamber. At the precise moment, he presses a button and unleashes a storm of destruction and devastation. A Hellfire missile comes hurtling from the pilot-less drone and as the very bowels of the earth reverberates in horror, the intended target is incinerated and obliterated. Even though there have been incidents where drone operators have alleged that they also suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (“PTSD”), these cases are more a rarity than a norm.
Chamayou also offers an interesting ethical perspective bordering on valour and natural justice to refute the contentions of the advocates of the Drone Theory. In every warfare the right to kill is implicitly and almost righteously balanced by the right to be killed. In other words a combatant in battle engages his opponent in the dance of death by accepting the fact that the latter has as much right to kill the former in an equally balanced duel of destiny. This attribute of righteousness is absent in the case of a drone attack. There is an immense imbalance of might in as much as only the side controlling the drone controls the game. The prey in this case has absolutely no ‘skin’ in the game whatsoever. The horrific images of helpless women and children scrambling to elusive safety in the barren terrains and hills of desolate Waziristan sends a chill down every sensitive and sensible spine.
Chamayou dazzles in this unbiased debate involving the pros and cons of using drones to create wanton mayhem and misery. As the shallow arguments proffered by the American political brigade is torn to shreds, unresolved questions of unrestricted Western hegemony and an innate complex of superiority that characterise American militaristic behaviour merit immediate and conclusive answers.
Meanwhile the hunters continue to haunt the hunted……