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An illustration of ‘The Ugliest Human Being’ from the Folio Society edition of Thus Spake Zarathustra. At first I thought it was Zarathustra’s Ape.

That morning, Peter* woke up feeling down again. Dragging himself out of bed, Peter was nonetheless determined to head to the marketplace and see the tightrope walker who was due to be giving a performance that day. When he got to the marketplace, however, Peter was surprised to see everyone gathered around a bedraggled, bearded figure stood there making some kind of speech.

Several months earlier,** this figure had burst into the market place ranting that he was looking for God, and claiming that the townsfolk had murdered him! Everyone had just stood there in silence, not knowing what to make of this stranger, and eventually the figure had stormed off, muttering that he’d come too earlier. …


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The Ghost 4 drone

Having now explored several key themes of Gregoire Chamayou’s critique of drone warfare in the previous sections of this digest, it is now possible to come to a conclusion about the overall themes underpinning Drone Theory (2015).

First of all, what is so fascinating about Chamayou’s critique of drone warfare is that it is not primarly rooted in strategic or military considerations, but in an incredibly rich philosophical discourse based around the ethics (necro-ethics) of killing in combat. …


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Illustration by Andy Casadonte

‘A robot commits a war crime. Who is responsible?’ (Chamayou, 2015, p.210)

Having spent most of Drone Theory exploring the negative consequences of the increasing separation of body and machine in drone warfare, towards the end of the book Chamayou follows this trend to its its logical conclusion: the total removal of any human agent in the ‘kill chain’ through the advent of fully autonomous military drones.

Mechanised Atrocity

Although the existing rules of war make a distinction between weapons as tools and the combatant as being responsible for their use, the Department of Defense hopes to ‘“gradually reduce the role of human control and decision making in the functioning of drones”’ (p.207). …


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Hobbes’s Leviathan

A central theme of the previous posts in this exploration of Gregoire Chamayou’s Drone Theory (2015) (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) has been the place of the body in warfare and how drones undermine this link, with dangerous results. Part 8 now examines Chamayou’s invocation of the social contract theories of Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in exploring the role of drones in accelerating this increasing disconnect between body and war.

‘I protect, so I am obliged’

In traditional social contract theory, social harmony and protection is achieved through the submission of individual agency to an overarching authority. With Hobbes, the social contract is achieved through the populace submitting its will to a powerful overlord, in Rousseau the same result is achieved through the populace submitting its will to itself. However, although the central logic of this contract holds during times of internal peace when the individual sacrifices a certain degree of personal autonomy to the sovereign in order to gain a greater degree of personal security, when the sovereign or the state exposes its subjects’ lives to war from an external threat it is no longer protecting them but placing them in harm’s way, so how can it continue to expect to be obeyed (p.178)? …


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IndieThinkers logo

In November last year I signed up for Justin Murphy’s IndieThinkers. My main reason for doing this was to give the final stretch of my part-time PhD thesis writing an extra productivity boost, but also to put some impetus into a blogging/vlogging/podcast experiment I called Primitive Accumulation, or PrimAcc for short.

Coming up to the one-year mark I thought it would help me take stock if I was to review my progress so far via IndieThinkers and my experience of using the platform for a year. I feel that my review may be insightful because if IndieThinkers works, then it should work for someone like me: an average guy of average smarts but who has always loved to read and who is interested in ideas, and who if I really concentrate can write something half-decent. I also have a job, studies (my PhD) and a family. …


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Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 charted Gregoire Chamayou’s (2015) critique of drone warfare as making war more likely by substituting human combatants for machines. Part 7 now charts a strange genealogy whereby some of the fiercest critics of drone warfare embedded deep within the US military establishment root the origins of their critique in a close reading of the strategies of revolutionary warfare espoused by Guevara and Mao.

Death From Above 1960

Writing in 1960, Ernesto “Che” Guevara noted that: ‘aviation…has no use whatsoever during the period that guerrilla warfare is in its first stages, with small concentrations of men in scattered places. The utility of aviation lies in the systematic destruction of visible and organised defences; and for this there must be large concentrations of men who construct these defences, something that does not exist in this type of warfare’ (p.60). Up until recently, traditional military strategy would have agreed with Guevara that arial bombardment was counterproductive: dropping bombs from several thousand feet killed indiscriminately, unsurprisingly alienating the very people you were supposed to be saving and instead driving them into the arms of your enemies. Notorious bombing campaigns such as those in 1920s British colonial Iraq and the Vietnam war had undermined the efficacy of vertical as opposed to horizontal counterinsurgency, or ‘boots on the ground’. …


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Airman First Class Brandon Bryant

“The kamikaze: My body is a weapon. The drone: My weapon has no body.” (Chamayou, 2015, p.84).

Part 5 of this series explained how although drone warfare can protect drone pilots from physical harm, it cannot protect them from mental harm. This instalment of the exploration of Gregoire Chamayou’s Drone Theory will now examine in greater detail the psychological cost drone pilots experience due to the phenomenological break between location and killing engendered by drone warfare.

Weapons, the Essence of Combatants

Push a button and in another room somebody screams. Push a button and thousands of miles away somebody dies. The greater the distance between assailant and target the easier it is to kill. If, as Hegel claims, ‘The firearm is the discovery of a death that is general, indifferent and impersonal’ (p.254), then drones take this discovery to its ultimate end. For Hegel, the combatant experiences his potential for violence reflected in the weapon of his opponent: ‘Weapons are nothing else than the essential being of the combatants themselves, a being which only makes its appearance for them both reciprocally’ (p.195). So, if weapons constitute the essence of combatants, Chamayou asks, what is the essence of those who fight using Drones? …


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Labour leader Keir Starmer

This interesting BBC News article outlines some of the positions Labour Leader Kier Starmer intends to take during the forthcoming Labour Party conference. One Labour insider summarises these values as “Flag, forces, family”. Such phrasing appears to be a development of chief Ed Miliband theorist Maurice Glasman’s Blue Labour motto of “Faith, family and flag”.

While the faith aspect of Glasman’s formulation always seemed a little off key in the UK, one of the most secular countries in the world, its replacement with “forces” seems more apposite. Research undertaken by Reifler, Scotto and Clarke (2011) shows that British voters show a preference for political parties whose policies align more closely with an outlook Reifler et al call ‘British militarism’, e.g. …


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An Air Force sensor operator practicing on drone flight simulators at Creech Air Force Base.

After investigating how the categorical imperative, orthodox price theory, virtueless warfare and jus in bello relate to drone warfare, Chamayou now draws on Hegelian dialectics to illustrate how drones perfectly synthesise the immanent contradiction between the modern state’s need to protect the life of its citizens whilst waging war.

According to Chamayou, Hegel himself refused to dialecticise this connection between “protective sovereignty and warring sovereignty”, believing that subordinating the power of the state to the protection of its subjects was an affront, undermining the very basis of state power itself. …


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Predator UAV schematic

Under what circumstances is the killing of another human being permitted? This chilling question sits at the heart of jus in bello; the seemingly strange idea that war must have rules in order to somehow separate killing from murder. Indeed, jus in bello forms the lodestar around which all Chamayou’s subsidiary critiques of the use of drones in warfare revolve. …

About

James Simpkin

The Primitive Accumulation blog @ptjws https://anchor.fm/james-simpkin

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