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Book Review- Drone Warfare: Killing by remote


Wreaking havoc sans the risks
MAYANK SINGH | New Delhi, June 13, 2013 13:36
Tags : Drone Warfare: Killing by remote | Medea Benjamin | Drone attacks | UAV |

The book ‘Drone Warfare: Killing by remote’ by Medea Benjamin is an excellent work which has very lucidly covered every facet involved with the use of drones or UAVs. The history of combat and warfare has been witness to revolutions which altered the face of the war. The same is happening now with the prolific use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for not just surveillance but also espionage and real time situation awareness of the scene of action. The same UAVs are today delivering payloads on the perceived enemy and the man flying the machine is sitting in an air-conditioned room oblivious of the vagaries of the war ground.

The use of these pilotless aerial flying machines is deemed to be the new game changers when the real man-to-man war of attrition is seemed to be gradually heading to obsolescence. The valor involved in penetrating the enemies’ territory and conducting missions in the face of the enemy fire might become a story of the yore. But there are issues like collateral damage, human rights violation, and breech of privacy as the mission operations of these pilotless flying machines are going to be multifaceted.

Even if these drones will be operated to knock-off an enemy or a militant, questions which immediately pop up relate to how one could confirm that targets are not civilians? How does a UAV ensure it never launches strikes against people not directly participating in hostilities? And these questions are relevant because of the large number of civilian casualties which get reported from Pakistan and Afghanistan which are the epicenter of most of the UAV missions being operated by the USA and UK.

The entire wiring of the intelligence provider, operator of these machines and the people involved in analyzing the received information has huge gaps. Let’s anticipate that signal intelligence or technical intelligence or human Intelligence received from the ground is precise, even in that case the area of operation remains dynamic which poses a risk to innocent life. Precisely these very reasons have brought the Pakistan Government and USA in a confrontation as the lives lost on ground in Pakistan have created a swell of anti-administration demonstration.

A tall man in a robe could be anybody. Even if the target is found to be right, how could one stop the damage in the periphery. There are umpteen examples like 24 Pakistani soldiers killed, one man knocked out in front of the mosque but the projectiles killing another 16 inside the mosque. Also, there are children, women and animals who if not killed are maimed for life. And they are also left with a psychological scar, something like the post trauma stress disorder, which keeps stirring within them throughout the life. Apart from these issues, there are legal and human rights issues, while we keep the battle field or security and defence requirements at bay.

The book is a thorough research on the kind of missions these drones are performing in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya or Iraq. It touches upon the influence of the manufacturers on the administration whether it is USA, UK or Israel which, as of now, have put these drones into maximum use. The research is not just about the bases within these countries but also those bases in Seychelles, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Turkey which are buzzing with these machines and their operators and handlers. Back home, as brought out by Medea Benjamin in the book, lobbies are using every means to push the interest of the manufacturers. The companies involved in defence production like Lockheed martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Limited have other companies like AeroVironment which specialize in mini drones of the size of Humming Birds or wasp and experimenting with technologies which can switch their role as per the need and mission. Medea has very interestingly detailed the web of means employed to grease the wheels to push the manufacturer’s interests and benefits.

But nobody can stop the proliferation of these Unmanned Aerial Vehicles as they appear to be safe for the men on mission and the initial investment in these machines also appears to be less than what is generally invested in buying a combat aircraft. India also has its own programme of UAV like Rustam, which was successfully tested recently.

Author: Medea Benjamin

Edition: Paperback

ISBN: 978-93-5029-991-3

Pages: 241

Price: Rs. 350

Publisher: Collins

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017