Thursday, May 8, 2014

The War Between

Some fun facts on drones and drone pilots:
·         Drones are also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

·         There are two main types of drones for the military: reconnaissance and surveillance drones and those that are armed with missiles and bombs

·         Drones are launched by ground troops in battle zones, but operated by a pilot on the ground on U.S. soil

·         Some drones can stay in the air up to 82 hours long

·         At any given time there are 36+ American drones flying over Iraq and Afghanistan

·         There are around 19 surveillance analysts per drone

·         An estimated 2,400 people have died from the U.S. drone campaign under President Barack Obama (as of January 2014)

·         Drone pilots are starting to get burnt out from working between 50-60 hours a week

·         Only 3-5% suffer from PTSD, compared to 12-20% of soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq

·         It is difficult, however, for drone pilots to seek therapy because they have a limited source of professionals with whom they can share confidential information

A drone pilot at work
How does this relate to my project and to Baudrillard's theories of the simulacra you ask? 

I decided to write a short story from the perspective of a military-wife-gone-widower as a way to delve into warfare, specifically as it pertains to drones.  Olivia writes her personal essay, a combination of anecdote and analysis, to share the insights she has gained in regards to the condition of our hyperreal world.  With first-hand knowledge on the topic of drones, an aspect of combat that is often critiqued for its simulated qualities, she is able to evaluate its role in the greater picture of warfare, and of humanity – the things often overlooked as being constructed or simulated. 
Society’s focus on drones and the current technologies and methods of warfare is a distraction from the state of warfare itself.  We produced war to defend our humanity, but it is paradoxically the thing that destroys us.  In today’s culture, many people disapprove of the use of drones for their automated, disconnected, and virtual traits.  What they don’t recognize is that every aspect of war possesses these qualities.  For the drone pilot, there is no difference between this “video-game”-like way of killing people and the “real” combat.  It still has the potential to produce the same results and the same effects for people on both ends. 

War itself, the whole kit and caboodle - drones, raids, front-line battle – is a simulation. We constructed the premises of warfare: territory, money, land, technology, and conflict.  Like the drone, it is all man-made.  Sure the idea of the drone is terrifying, but it is still controlled and created by man and this is the problem. Warfare itself is the problem – we  are the problem.

Furthermore, the narrator's essay provides a wake-up call for Americans who are so concerned about the morality and the “realness” of our current state of affairs overseas.  Olivia suggests that from an American standpoint, war never exists; it is never real to us in the way it is to the people in Afghanistan or to the people in Iraq.  Her theory is Baudrillardian by nature.  In his collection of essays, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, Baudrillard argues that “from the Western perspective, having witness much in the way of strategic models, media coverage, and military simulations prior to the invasion, the actual war was virtually impossible to distinguish” (Lax). 

Olivia ends with the statement that we indeed live in a hyperreal world – a world where there is no distinction between the real and the simulated.  Rather than fight this truth, rather than question what is real or not, right or wrong, moral or immoral, we should accept this reality of our world and learn how to live in it the best we can by supporting each other, especially (all) our troops.  We should not deny the reality that we are presented, even if half of it seems artificial.  

Image sources:,,,

Works consulted:
"Drone Use by the U.S. Military." International Debates 11.5 (2013): n. pag. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Apr.
Johnsson, Patrik. "Drone Hunters: Why Are Americans Lining up to Shoot down Drowns?" Christian Science Monitor (2013): n. pag. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.
Lax, Joshua. "Jean Baudrillard: Reality, Hyperreality, and Asymmetry." Krax in Logic. N.p., 14 Dec. 2012. Web. 03 May 2014.
Linebaugh, Heather. "I Worked on the US Drone Program. The Public Should Know What Really Goes on." Guardian Weekly. Guardian News and Media, 29 Dec. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2014.
Miller, Greg. "Drone Wars." Science., 18 May 2012. N. pag. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.
Mulrine, Anna. "Drone Pilots: Why War Is Also Hard for Remote Soldiers." Christian Science Monitor (2012): n. pag. Academic Search Premier. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.
Reardon, Sara. "I Spy, with My Faraway Eye." New Scientist 217.2901 (2013): n. pag. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 May 2014.
Zenko, Micah. "10 Things You Didn't Know About Drones." Foreign Policy 2012th ser. Mar/Apr.192 (2012): n. pag. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Apr. 2014.
Zucchino, David. "Drone Pilots Have a Front-row Seat on War, from Half a World Away." Los Angeles Times. N.p., 21 Feb. 2010. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.


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