A Theory of the Drone

Grégoire Chamayou, trans. from the French by Janet Lloyd. New Press (Perseus, dist.), $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-59558-975-0
Having created a stir with his 2012 title, Manhunts: A Philosophical History, Chamayou, research scholar at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, delivers a philosophical investigation into the subject of drones, revealing many insights to readers willing to put in the work. Chamayou stresses that unmanned aircraft armed with missiles have converted war from a duel between two fighters to a simple manhunt: “People die but only on one side.” The U.S., a nation that cherishes soldiers’ lives perhaps too much, now trains more drone operators than pilots of fighters and bombers combined. Drone warfare led the U.S. to discard its commitment to counterinsurgency—which aimed to win over a population—and replace it with an antiterrorism policy that simply aimed to kill insurgents. Chamayou warns repeatedly of the moral hazards involved, and emphasizes that allowing actions to be taken without consequences encourages riskier behavior (in the case of drones, riskier to those where drones are operating). He suggests that as the U.S. enthusiastically smites supposed enemies in nations where we are officially at peace (Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen), it slides well down that slippery slope. Chamayou has produced a thought-provoking reference for scholars and military officers, but it’s heavy going for the general reader. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/17/2014
Release date: 01/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
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