Sunday, July 10, 2011

War Without Humans

Barbara Ehrenreich, activist, essayist, and author of numerous books including Nickel and Dimed, Bright-sided, and Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War, talks about the history and nature of warfare, and what effect–if any–modern technology has had on the way humans conduct war.

mp3 download available at


Anonymous said...

I like the way Barbara Ehrenreich takes on subjects. It started when I heard her interviewed about her book Brightsided. Her insights on drone warfare are no exception.

Anonymous said...

I found Ms Ehrenreich's principal comment that we must end war rather than attempt to eliminate a particular sort of weapon a truism and thus disappointing. Her observation that those pushing the drones' buttons may have more intimate contact with their targets than, say, snipers an interesting one. I don't think those "buttoniers" can be interviewed, however. We shall have to wait for one or two to go public to know how much the humanity of the targets was felt by the buttoniers.

Anonymous said...

Worth remembering: Kids are not naturally violent. They have to be trained to be "good soldiers."

80% of the American soldiers sent to World War I did not fire their weapons. Woodrow Wilson had to persuade a pacifist country that war was necessary. Reportedly, 95% of the soldiers in Vietnam fired their weapons.

That Vietnam "success" is the result of decades of culture that de-sensitizes kids to violence. First person shooter video games have a real effect.

Desmond said...

I would like to see Ms Ehrenreich expand the discussion further into the consequences of drone warfare. I see two areas in need of exploration. The first is to examine the idea of the contracting of one's security concerns to third parties. In other words could drones (and other unmanned offshoots on the drawing board) be seen as the new 'mercenaries'. Are they in effect risk-aversion substitutes and if so, are we in the West, by their very use signalling an end of empire phenomena?
My second point relates the Conventions in the employment of such weapons. Consider their use in Gaza during Cast Lead and the employment of them possibly for amusement-arcade purposes when children playing, a pregnant woman, a lone cyclist among others were taken out for no other apparent reason. And oh yes, there are user anecdotes available which gives credence to the amusement-arcade theory.
These are hugely important considerations as the automation of air and ground war is well on the way to becoming a reality.

Anonymous said...

PBS - Digital Nation
About 50 minutes in they have a segment on the Predator drone pilots sitting at consoles near Las Vegas, blowing people to pieces 4,000 miles away, going out to lunch, back to kill and blow up some more, then home to dinner and help with the kid's homework. One guy driving in to the slaughter next morning shown saying he's sustained by his faith in God.

More crass brutality than Nero or Caligula. I wonder - what will become of these people? (Us, I mean)

Desmond said...

Just wondered why my post of yesterday was not put up for viewing. Any problems with it?

TomDispatch said...

Desmond, if you're talking about the post in which you suggest Ehrenreich expand the discussion on the consequences of drone warfare, it was posted. Let me know if you're having problems viewing it.