What would Hannah Arendt think about Drones, and should we agree with her? Much distrust of drones, argues Abu Muqawama, comes from the same tradition as Arendt’s horror at the ‘banality of evil’. Its model of evil is the Nazi bureaucrat, efficiently implementing Genocide while mentally insulated from the reality.
Arendt tapped into a wave of humanistic sentiment that prefigured her journalism, and she popularized the fantasy of the ice-cold bureaucratic murderer. As wrong as she was [Muqawama considers Eichmann as much idealist as pen-pusher], she crafted a compelling narrative of a sociotechnical system that diminished the humanity of the men who operated it and killed millions.
So drone operators, like Eichmann, can be simultaneously driven by scientific rationalism and by rabid murderous ideology. Um, great!
Or to put a kinder spin on it: drone pilots are subject to the same passions as soldiers in the field. But, being in a less brutal environment, they might be more open to compassion than to revenge:
in what universe does does a 19-year old rifleman who took to war directly from high school prom, who has just seen his friend lose his limbs a week before in a IED attack, somehow become an a priori better choice than a Air Force officer sitting in a Creech Air Force Base trailer?