By: Alma Kafaie
“War robots kill more civilians than they save”, “drones make soldiers not feel anything anymore and kill more easily”, “this is morally wrong and needs to be stopped” – it is so easy to hate advanced war technology. It is so easy to blame those tools for the horrors that happen all over the world every day. But here is the thing: technological progress can hardly be stopped, so we can hate it or we can learn to live with it and control it. If there is one concept engraved in many people’s minds that endangers all of us it’s static statements of ‘wrong’ and ‘right’.
Every advancement in world history has always been accompanied by critique and judgement. It is never easy for people to get used to new things and, obviously, this unease becomes unbearable when it concerns human lives. However, let’s be honest, a lot of the technological advancements of the past decades have improved our lives immensely. So the question arises if drones and such improve our lives and the answer to that is no, since those tool are only connected to people dying. The difficulty with this view however is that once a war is declared, people will be dying, no matter if the shots are fired from a drone or a soldier – that’s a fact. What those tools hence do, is to become the lesser of many evils. I acknowledge that the most crucial point in this debate is that of morality. How can we justify making an asymmetric war even more asymmetric by using even more powerful weapons that can, at least in theory, kill more people? How can we give power to a tool without human emotions that doesn’t feel anything when killing a human being? How can we take away the notion of an honourable war in which a man fights another man and falls heroically? In my opinion, a first step towards a better world would be accepting that wars are never fair, that people will always feel bad in a war and most importantly, that war is not a platform for pride and heroism. War sucks.
I personally have never fought in a war and, as a consequence of that, I don’t allow myself to judge any fighting soldier. In my opinion, they have one of the most honourable jobs of all. If we are to believe that every life is worth the same, and I do, then the life of a “western” soldier is not worth less than that of a person from the other side just because the attacking country has the more powerful tools. If we are in possession of technology that can save even just one of those men’s lives, we should use it. I will never blame a commander in charge for deciding not to put the lives of his men in danger, doing a job he was ordered to do, if he has a choice.
My grandfather was a war general, a passionate army man. He led the troops that not only fought on the frontline, but also cleared the paths from mines and bombs even before the other troops arrived. He loved what he did, he believed in what he did and he returned to the frontline several times for over eight years despite all the horrors he saw every day. And he did that because he believed he could make a difference in people’s lives. Lives that had already been decided upon by the politicians who started the war. My grandfather did not fall in the war, but he died of its consequences – way too early.
My aim here is not to defend drones, there are arguments for and against their brilliancy and I advise everyone to read both sides of the story if truly interested. My point is to start a conversation about the idea that concepts of morality have to change in a world in which everything else changes as well. We let things come so far because we thought it was right or not wrong enough to fight it. So now would be the time to accept that change will never stop, technological progress will never stop and we have to understand that it is our responsibility to embrace it, and to control it. The key is regulation and adaptation – physically and morally.
Honestly, if I could find a way to turn back time and make war technology more advanced in the war that my grandfather fought in, a war I consider a legitimate war*, so that his job would have been easier and less dangerous, I would. Maybe he could be here now to see me trying to contribute to the same goal he had: making people feel safe.
* Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)