Welcome to the Machine: The Technocracy of Warfare

Warfare and technology have always been linked. The tools at a fighting force’s disposal and its willingness to use them remain a determining factor in victory and defeat. But modern warfare has taken an increasingly technological turn that removes combatants from the conventional field of battle altogether.


Indeed, the unmanned aerial drone (UAD), which was introduced in 2001, has become an essential element of the evolving technocracy of warfare — the move toward an entirely mechanical fighting force.


There have been 350 U.S. drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan between 2004 and 2013, according to the New America Foundation. Although the targets of these strikes, which fall under the purview of the CIA, have been confined to members of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups, there have been repeated cases of so-called “collateral damage,” or civilian deaths.


Indeed, from 2004 to 2007, civilian casualties made up 54 to 61 percent of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, while intended terrorist targets accounted for only 35 to 43 percent of said strikes. In 2009, Pakistani civilian deaths from drone strikes remained in the double-digit range at 11 to 19 percent; although from 2010 to 2012, civilian deaths in Pakistan were reduced to one to three percent.


Increased use of drones in the field coupled with so-called “kill lists” has created a startling phenomenon that must be addressed and examined: To what extent has the development of technology’s deployment in modern warfare, especially the asymmetric warfare that has characterized the “War on Terror,” alienated man in his enterprise of war? Mechanistic modes of military conflict — such as the use of UADs, which can remotely strike targets from across the globe — have ushered in a new age of warfare, one in which technology has supplanted the traditional use of symmetrical, army on army fighting.


Modern warfare’s latest incarnation develops and employs non-conventional (i.e. mechanical) weaponry to reduce boots on the ground. Drone controllers are, in most instances, thousands of miles away from their targets. The spatial relationship between the two opposing forces is unprecedented in the history of military combat.


The advent of technocratic warfare illuminates the degree to which a new wartime paradigm is taking shape in the 21st century. Based on the widespread use of technologies such as UADs, there can be no doubt that mechanistic warfare is here to stay. Addressing the ethical and legal implications will be the next step in formalizing the means and ends of the new age of military warfare.


Submitted by Edwin Daniel Jacob


The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not represent the opinions of Rutgers University or the Division of Global Affairs.

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