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January 7, 2008
With Robot Soldiers,
Peace Will Become Impossible
Robot troops in Iraq instead of flesh-and-blood soldiers? If this
proposition sounds like a far-future science fiction tale, think again.
Associated Press story about the U.S. military’s soaring use of aerial
drones in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus a chance remark in an email from a
federal judge familiar with military issues, lead to this horrifying
Drones are unmanned aircraft equipped with any combination of cameras,
bombs, rockets or missiles. They spy on, target and kill human beings
and/or destroy property or munitions without putting their remote human
operators at risk of life or limb. The AP reports that use of drones by
various U.S. military branches more than doubled between January and
October of 2007 and is on pace to double again this year.
Robot-troops are “coming sooner than folks think,” the judge writes.
“Very soon, in fact.”
can already buy a robot to sweep our floors for us. Japanese
multinational Honda Motor Company, Ltd., has even advertised ASIMO, a
human-like robot for which Honda is now developing technology to enable
multiple ASIMOs to work together. As in divisions, brigades, platoons
and squadrons of robots on combat duty.
The prospect of relegating actual killing entirely to remote-controlled
drones or non-human troops should scare the living daylights out of all
of us who value and work for peace.
With aerial drones, war devolves into a real-life video game that
involves no risk or consequences to the human pilots controlling the
machines from a safe distance. With robots, there will be no more
military funerals or limbless soldiers in wheelchairs or veterans’
benefits to pay.
Once that happens, peace will be impossible.
Once the price of war no longer involves death and bloodshed (at least
for our side), then too many Americans will be willing to pay it,
ignoring or not caring about the carnage on the other side.
This has happened to some extent already. As
Slate reported last year, U.S. public opinion turned
against Bush’s handling of the Iraq war for the first time in November
2003 after insurgents shot down a U.S. helicopter, killing 16 U.S.
troops and wounding more than 20 others.
Yet in January 2006, when a U.S. drone fired laser-guided missiles into
a house in northwest Pakistan, missing Al Qaeda deputy honcho Ayman al
Zawahiri while killing as many as 18 civilians, including women and
children, U.S. opinion polls showed no change.
other words, as long as technology spares U.S. lives and blood, then
Americans don’t seem to mind endless war.
Certainly, if Vice President Dick Cheney already had robot troops to
call on, this country would have invaded just about any and every nation
listing oil among its natural resources. What’s next – the Imperial
U.S.A. Death Star?
The United States, of course, will not be the only country that turns
robots into killing machines for delusions of conquest and dominion. In
fact, since the capitalists who control this nation’s manufacturing
sector have seen fit to move such capacity overseas, China, India and
Russia are just as likely to wind up with robot troops as this country.
And who will save us from others’ missile-packing drones and
gun-wielding ‘droids when they hit Main Street?
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