…Ten months on, tens of thousands of Nubans have left their villages and towns to live in caves and crevasses in the rocky mountain massifs. (I shot pictures, above, and videos, below, on a reporting trip there this week.) Khartoum’s Sukhoi and MiG jet fighters and Antonov warplanes fly daily sorties overhead, bombing frequently. Food is becoming scarce, as these people have not been able to plant their fields; there is a risk of famine with the new rainy season that begins in May. Tens of thousands more have fled south, to dank and dry brush forests. And in the Nuba Mountains, one of the oldest spots on earth, Africa’s newest war seems already to have begun.
The problems with remote-controlled warfare are legion. The human operator ‘is terribly remote from the consequences of his actions; he is likely to be sitting in an air-conditioned trailer, hundreds of miles from the area of battle.’ He evaluates ‘target signatures’ captured by various sensor systems that ‘no more represent human beings than the tokens in a board-type war game.’
The rise of this new ‘American way of bombing’, as it’s been called, has two particularly serious consequences. First, ‘through its isolation of the military actor from his target, automated warfare diminishes the inhibitions that could formerly be expected on the individual level in the exercise of warfare’. In short, killing is made casual. Secondly, once the risk of combat is transferred to the target, it becomes much easier for the state to go to war. Domestic audiences are disengaged from the violence waged in their name: ‘Remote-controlled warfare reduces the need for the public to confront the consequences of military action abroad.’