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Courage in modern warfare

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This post is part of the Remote-control warfare debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

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30 April 2010 11:52


This post is part of the Remote-control warfare debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

In his email on the remote-control warfare debate, Christian Enemark claims to be making an ethical point when he says that, in physical terms at least, drone pilot put themselves at no risk of harm when they go to war. He goes on to say that 'the use of drones potentially challenges traditional notions of honour, courage and masculinity.'

But that's really a sociological observation, not an ethical one — Christian hasn't really demonstrated why the use of drones is particularly problematic on an ethical level.

Yet I can see some ethical problems arising from the Christian's line of thought. After all, don't governments and citizens have a moral duty to protect those who fight on their behalf? And don't drones serve that purpose? If drones are ethically questionable because they allow armed forces to fight without risk of physical harm, then what other military technologies ought we to consider unethical on those grounds?

Certainly the fighter-bomber would be out in the Afghan war, since the enemy has no means to defend itself from high-altitude strikes — the physical risk to these pilots is only slightly higher than that of drone pilots. Coalition countries also use long-range artillery in Afghanistan to hit Taliban targets from a distance, thereby keeping friendly troops safe. Then there are the armoured vehicles to protect against mines and IEDs. Individual troops carry body armour too.

For that matter, so did soldiers at the Battle of Agincourt (pictured), to whom Christian refers as upholding traditional notions of honour, courage and masculinity. Perhaps such notions are more honoured in the breach than the observance.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

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