Drone-Ethics Part 9

Mechanised Atrocity and the Death of the Subject

Drone-Ethics Part 9
Illustration by Andy Casadonte

‘A robot commits a war crime. Who is responsible?’ (Chamayou, 2015, p.210)

Having spent most of Drone Theory exploring the negative consequences of the increasing separation of body and machine in drone warfare, towards the end of the book Chamayou follows this trend to its its logical conclusion: the total removal of any human agent in the ‘kill chain’ through the advent of fully autonomous military drones.

Mechanised Atrocity

Although the existing rules of war make a distinction between weapons as tools and the combatant as being responsible for their use, the Department of Defense hopes to ‘“gradually reduce the role of human control and decision making in the functioning of drones”’ (p.207).

The Death of the Subject

In such a situation, however, mechanics finally destroys teleology (p.206). Allowing machines to kill sets ‘homicide on the same level as the destruction of a purely material object’: the murder of a human being becomes akin to the smashing of a rock. In a totally automated system, therefore, ‘the only human agent directly identifiable as the the efficient cause of death’ is that of the human target, and so by making movements which trigger the drone attack the subject in essence kills himself (pp.209–210).

A Body without Organs

Taking a Deleuzian turn, Chamayou then argues that the ultimate aim of autonomous drone warfare is the creation of ‘a political body without human organs’ in which the body politic is replaced by mechanical instruments, always ready to do the state’s bidding without qualm or question (p.221).

Having arrived at the total nullification of the human subject through drone warfare, part 10 will conclude this journey through Chamayou’s Drone Theory by giving an overall summary of its main themes.