The Military is contemplating awarding medals for video game warfare. This is warmongering at its finest:
The notion of greater recognition for drone pilots has been percolating for some time. Air Force Maj. Dave Blair, writing in the May-June issue of the Air & Space Power Journal, asked how much difference there is in terms of risk “between 10,000 feet and 10,000 miles.”
A “manned aircraft . . . that scrapes the top of a combat zone, well outside the range of any realistic threat” is deemed in “combat,” Blair writes, but a Predator firing a missile is considered “combat support.”
The modern military has been coming to terms with a very serious problem: how to convince the public that war is still glamorous and dangerous in the era of telepresence combat. In other words, if the troops are not actually in danger, how do you continue to glorify the military? Obviously, the branch of the military experiencing the greatest difficulty with this is the Air Force. The solution? Award drone operators medals for “valor.”
I’m not even in the military and I find the idea repugnant for a variety of reasons.
First, these soldiers are not in harm’s way. Even pilots flying at 10,000 feet face the possibility of enemy fighters or anti-aircraft fire. Even absent those threats when we completely dominate the airspace, there are always malfunctions or pilot error that could lead to landing in hostile territory. But Maj. Blair has an answer for that as well (emphasis mine):
As to the second count, I do not believe that RPA operators are in less danger than their manned counterparts. In fact, I assert that it may well be the other way around. Recall that the individuals killed in the terrorist attack of 11 September 2001 on the Pentagon received the Purple Heart, a combat medal. This war is global, and our enemies have global reach as well. If we found ourselves in our enemies’ position, would we spend the time and attract attention attempting to purchase a high-profile missile when a terror attack on RPA operators in the continental United States would produce better results? God forbid that scenario comes to pass, but I argue strongly that the differential risk of being an RPA operator in this war is at least that of an in-theater pilot. How does a terror attack on the way to work differ from ground fire on initial climb-out? In both instances, someone comes under enemy fire en route to the target area.
This might as well have been written by Dick Cheney during re-election campaign in 2004. It has all the talking points: 9/11? Check. Global terrorism? Check. Terrorists can attack at any time in the United States? Check! We’re at war and no one is safe anywhere! Double check!
Ridiculous. The drone operators here in the United States are at just as much risk as the pilots in the theater? I’d love to see a drone operator say that to a regular pilot in a bar. The fight would be quite spectacular.
Second, the idea of romanticizing video game warfare by awarding medals is pure propaganda. The industrial-military complex is huge and accounts for most of our tax dollars. It also accounts for a great many dead soldiers, slain civilians and wounded veterans. It is absolutely crucial that the average American view war as a glamorous fight for American ideals when it’s really about feeding military contractors trillions of dollars and securing oil around the globe. Without the gloss of untouchable “herotude” conferred upon our soldiers, we might start looking what it is our military is actually doing.
Right now, this very second, there are people screaming that I am disrespecting the troops, how dare I, I’m a traitor, yadayadayada. These are people who have brought into the propaganda. There has been a very deliberate conflation between “the military” and “the troops.” This way, the military can hide its actions behind the corpses of the troops it has sacrificed to make a small group of men rich. Do not be blinded by that sacrifice. Look past it and see the bigger picture. We are waging a fill scale war against a concept. “Terrorism” can never ever be “defeated.” It can only breed more fanatics. In the meantime, we are pissing away hundreds of billions of dollars and creating a future generation of anti-american zealots that we’ll have to “pacify” in a decade or so after we leave the Middle East. Unless we “have” to invade Iran first. The only way to make this palpable to the public is to appeal to their patriotism in the form of troop worship. If the troops are not seen as heroic figures risking their lives, we might just start wondering why we are bombing civilians in far away lands.
And that brings us back to giving medals to people sitting in a chair in front of a video game screen. The game players pilots even call their kills “bug splats” making it very clear that they are far removed from the psychological impact. In a few years, I fully expect to find out that the military has been deliberately recruiting people with low empathy and training them to view their remote killing as exactly the video game it is. Why risk a breakdown in the human element, after all?
Are these the American heroes that we will be giving medals to? Is this what we have been reduced to? How long before we start televising the drones’ feeds for everyone to watch and cheer the pilot that gets the highest “score?” I’m not saying it’s better to send American soldiers into harm’s way but let’s not pretend remote control warfare is something to celebrate.
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