Wednesday, January 13, 2010

We've Seen the Future, and It's Unmanned

From Esquire

We've Seen the Future, and It's Unmanned

Every so often in history, something profound happens that changes warfare forever. Next year, for the first time ever, the Pentagon will buy more unmanned aircraft than manned, line-item proof that we are in a new age of fighting machines, in which war will be ever more abstract, ever more distant, and ruthlessly efficient.

The cameras aren't just watching insurgents. The real-time videos allow commanders to see and direct movement at the lowest levels. On today's battlefields, when isolated actions can have enormous impact, there are times when you want higher-ups giving the go-ahead before a missile flattens a house. But the up-close image from a UAV can lead to a false sense of clarity, making a choice seem obvious when it's not. Someone watching an operation from miles away can't sense other critical factors, like the mood of locals or the difficulty of crossing rough terrain. "Sometimes it's more of a pain in the ass than anything," a captain in Afghanistan told me.

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