The recent attacks were horrible. Hundreds of innocent people were killed or wounded. And why? The victims had the audacity to live in Paris, referred to by ISIS as a “capital of prostitution and obscenity.” To my mind, it’s deranged to murder someone for obscenity. Far worse to murder someone for proximity to obscenity.
My condolences to any whose friends and family were hurt. And to all who now feel less safe. That latter category likely includes huge numbers of people.
Hearing about the attacks, though, makes me very glad that I read Gregoire Chamayou’s Theory of the Drone (which I wrote about previously here). His work has helped me try to puzzle through the atrocity beyond simply feeling horrified at the inhumanity of our species. Chamayou provided a framework for understanding this sort of terrorism.
The attacks in Paris were so horrible because innocent civilians were targeted.
And yet, all people living in a region surveilled and attacked by military drones surely feel themselves to be at war. They might die at any moment, murdered by missiles from above.
If they want to retaliate? There is no enemy. Their deaths are delivered by remote control. By anonymous, often civilian workers half the world away. In order to retaliate, the victims of drone strikes have to target civilians.
Not that this sort of attack would be much easier to stomach if it had been hundreds of service people killed and wounded. But it might not feel so nightmarish. So unexpected. We recognize that when people are sent into combat, those people are sometimes killed. That knowledge forestalls military action. We don’t want to put our people at risk. Not even people who enlisted for combat fully understanding the risk.
Drones have been employed more liberally. They’ve been sent in at times when we would not countenance a risk to soldier’s lives. But that doesn’t mean our military actions carried no risk. The people living beneath drones, feeling terrorized, were likely to retaliate. They did retaliate. As Chamayou argues so forcefully, our drone strikes may have increased the risk that innocent civilians die.