Necro-Ethics part 7. ‘Depriving the Enemy of an Enemy’: Drones and the Guevarist Guerrilla

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’.

Robbing the Enemy of His Enemy

However, with the advent of the drone the temptations of a technological fix raised its head once more. This time around, the precision strike capability drones supposedly possessed would ensure kills without casualties. Strategists were also seduced by the apparent opportunity drone warfare presented for flipping the script of insurgents’ asymmetric tactics back on them by ‘depriving the enemy of an enemy’ (p.62). For insurgents, death itself is not demoralising: what is demoralising is being killed by an enemy they cannot kill.

The People Remain the Prize

Pushing back against this technological Panglossianism, for Chamayou, the irony is that modern day opponents to the use of drones in the US military trace their lineage back to the US army’s reverse engineering of the Maoist notion that the ‘battle for the population is a major characteristic of the revolutionary war’ (p.66). David Kilcullen, former advisor to General Petraeus, for example, notes that counterinsurgency cannot be conducted vertically from 50,000 feet, but only on the horizontal ‘terrain’ of human being itself. According to Kilcullen, taking his cue from Mao and Che, the heart of combat is still a political struggle for winning the population over to one’s cause (p.66).

Having now touched on the role of popular sovereignty with its invocation of the people as the locus of political legitimacy in combat, part 8 in this series will pit Hobbes against Rousseau over the question of the state’s right to use our bodies in warfare, and asks whether the use of drones provides a get out clause for state power on that front.

Get Primitive!

--

--

--

Micro-Liberations @ptjws https://anchor.fm/james-simpkin https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8d_gG_2lTBIFK7Xl1ism5A

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

The Brexit Drama Approaches Its Final Act

BREAKING: Syria war: Evacuation begins in besieged towns

“There is still more to be done to support business’’ — hospitality sector on Government support…

Pensioners in Argentina are struggling to access their main source of income

Afric and the Covid-19 enigma

After Saakashvili’s resignation, Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoyskyi takes control over Odessa Oblast

Bruised but coping, Qatar’s economy remains strong: experts

Clash of civilizations, Islamophobia and World war III

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
James Simpkin's Micro-Liberations

James Simpkin's Micro-Liberations

Micro-Liberations @ptjws https://anchor.fm/james-simpkin https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8d_gG_2lTBIFK7Xl1ism5A

More from Medium

MetaverseMax Beta Version 0.13 2022_04_23

Desktop Building Tabs

BULLISH NEWS ABOUT SOLANA ECOSYSTEM YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO

Family Dinner|Sofiya Budeva

𝐀𝐫𝐞𝐧'𝐭 𝐰𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐛𝐚𝐝 𝐚𝐭 𝐂𝐕𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐂𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐋𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬?