Means Becoming AIM-IN-ITSELF? a Virilioan Problematization of the Armed Drones


In contemporary armed conflicts, science and technology increasingly plays a determining role and decisively shape outcomes. This techno-scientific discourse has led to development of cutting edge weapon systems, with armed drone as its prime example. ...


In contemporary armed conflicts, science and technology increasingly plays a determining role and decisively shape outcomes. This techno-scientific discourse has led to development of cutting edge weapon systems, with armed drone as its prime example. This paper aims to explore the interaction of armed drones with strategy making, culture and politics that has barely begun and calls for a critical awareness to tame emerging pro-armed drone discourse that seems to subjugate political processes and strategic decision-making mechanisms in all over the globe. To achive this, the article critically engages in the debate over the relationship between strategy and technique through the problematization of the drone warfare relying on the conceptions Paul Virilio. Paul Virilio, a reputable French military philosopher yet poorly studied by the Turkish academia, problematizes the relationship of speed, technology and warfare, and thus, provides an effective conceptual tool box for the critical security studies when analyzing the conduct and consequences of the drone warfare.
Keywords: Paul Virilio, drone warfare; military technology, military strategy, armed drones


Günümüzde yaşanan silahlı çatışmalarda, bilim ve teknoloji gittikçe belirleyici bir rol oynamakta ve bu çatışmaların sonuçlarını büyük ölçüde şekillendirmektedir. Son yıllarda tekno- bilimsel diskur en çok silahlı insansız hava araçlarının (SİHA) gelişmesine yol açmaktadır. Bu makale, stratejik karar alma mekanizmalarını etkisi altına almış görünen SİHA’lara yönelik eleştirel bir farkındalık oluşturma amacındadır. SİHA konusunda strateji, kültür ve siyaset arasındaki etkileşimi de irdelemeye çalışan çalışma, ünlü Fransız askeri filozof Paul Virilio’nun kavramlarına dayanarak SİHA örnek olayı üzerinden strateji ve teknik arasındaki ilişkiye odaklanmaktadır. Henüz Türkiye’de hakkında yeterince akademik çalışma bulunmayan Paul Virilio; hız, teknolojive savaş arasındaki ilişkiyi sorgulamaktadır.  Bu yüzden, silahlı çatışmalarda giderek amaca dönüştüğü görülen araçlar haline gelen SİHA’ların yarattığı gerçekliği anlamlandırmada ve SİHA tartışmalarına eleştirisel bir katkı sunmada Virilio’nun kavramsallaştırmaları önem kazanmaktadır.
Anahtar Kelimeler: Paul Virilio, Silahlı İHA, askeri teknoloji

If technology is the answer, then what was the question? Introduction
Modern industrial warfare seems to have ended. Science and technology has always played an important role, but in contemporary armed conflicts, they have the potential to decisively shape the outcomes.1 Development of “cutting edge” weapon platforms with instantaneous communication, real time imaging, all-weather night/day and thermal vision capabilities, armed with precision guided hi-tech weapon systems might have changed the game once and for all. Drone, an unpiloted aircraft that operates autonomously and in an automated mode following a pre-planned mission, is a prominent example of these latest weapons systems. For the first time in human history, the features of eagle sighting in all weather conditions, real time imaging, automated mode of target acquisition, precision guiding and tele-command have been collected in a single system. When its offering of low-cost and low risk solution is accompanied by these extremely lethal capabilities, drone has been claimed as a weapon of choice for military planners and is presented as a “force multiplier” in future battlefields.2
The emergence of new cutting-edge systems like armed drones seems to have disrupted the hierarchical understanding of the relationship between technology and strategy. Grand strategy is, with Liddell Hart’s words, “the higher strategy which is to coordinate and direct all resources of a nation towards the attainment of the political objectives of war - the goal defined by fundamental policy.”3 On the other hand, military strategy refers to the conduct of warfare with military technique, which includes both the new modes of technology in warfare (means) and the military’s tactical expertise in implementing technology in the battle space (ways). Indeed, in the Clausewitzian tradition, strategists identify military strategy as hierarchically subjugated to grand strategymaking.

Thus, policy determines the character of war, and consequently policy forms the frame in which military strategy is shaped. Military technique, on the other hand, is conceptualized as mere instruments of the military strategy. However, development of the latest hi-tech weapons systems attests to the fact that military technique has begun to determine military strategy rather than the other way round. The overall objective of this paper is to question the extent to which military technique is subjugated to military strategy, and thus to policy with critical conceptual tools and frameworks offered by Paul Virilio. For clarity of the argument, this paper focuses on armed drones, and problematizes their usage to elucidate - in Colin S. Gray’s formulation - whether “the weapons are mere instruments with which war is conducted, or they decide the war.”4

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