This is an excerpt from Remote Warfare: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Get your free download from E-International Relations.
Remote warfare describes “interventions that take place behind the scenes or in the distance rather than on a traditional battlefield” (Knowles and Watson 2017). But who or what stays at a distance during long-distance war missions? The impetus for policymakers to pursue policy objectives abroad at low cost and with low risk is not a new phenomenon. However, the means by which policymakers seek to reach them change with technological developments. In the twenty-first century, one of the most noticeable developments in these means was the advent of remote-controlled airplanes – some call them drones. “This development is particularly significant because in previous generations policy makers set mission goals from home, while their agents – diplomats, soldiers, intelligence officers, and others – went into the operational environment to try to achieve those goals. The advent of remotely piloted airplanes has made it possible, in some cases at least, for both policy makers and most of their agents to stay at home while trying to accomplish mission objectives overseas. This alleged removal of the war fighter from the battlefield has raised important ethical questions, which in turn have spawned a mountain of literature (e.g. Killmister 2008; Strawser 2010; Royakkers and van Est 2010; Galliott 2012; Gregory 2012; Chamayou 2013; Enemark) 2014; Kaag and Kreps 2014; Rae and Crist 2014; Gusterson 2015; Himes 2016).
A understaffed element of literature is the role of human judgment in remote warfare. To fill this gap, this chapter looks at the relationship between remote-controlled aircraft and human judgment, particularly with regard to making targeted decisions. The chapter argues that this relatively new technology, despite the large physical distances between crews and targets, allows crews to use human judgment on the battlefield as if they were much closer to the effects of their weapons.
The ethics of remote-controlled aircraft
Much of the literature on remote-controlled aircraft ethics has focused on concerns at a strategic or political level. There are at least two concerns in this category that continue to arise. First, many have argued that voters in liberal democracies are likely to oppose military actions that result in the sacrifice of their own armed forces. If distant weapons offer policymakers military options that are unlikely to result in casualties of their own armed forces, policymakers may have strong political reasons for resorting to military force remotely – perhaps even in cases where they have strong moral reasons they don’t to do. This is often referred to as the “moral hazard” argument. This suggests that political leaders are pervertedly encouraged to commit unethical or illegal acts when those acts pose little domestic political risk. Although this argument appears throughout the literature on the ethics of distant weapons, its strongest formulation is in John Kaags and Sarah Kreps’ Drone war (see Kaag and Kreps 2012, 2014, 107; Galliott 2012, Chamayou 2013, 189; Brooks 2016, 111).
Another common concern at the strategic level is that remote warfare has enabled powerful states like the US to deploy military forces outside of areas of active hostility with relatively little political resistance either domestically or abroad. One possible outcome is that al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan and ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria are legitimate fighters, but it is not clear whether members of terrorist organizations outside of areas with active hostility (e.g. in Yemen, Somalia, Libya) are, etc.) are lawful combatants. However, this discussion is about the status of a fighter, not about distant weapons per seIt is closely related to the above problem. The ethical concern is that by reducing the risk to the crews, and thereby reducing the political risk to policy makers, policy makers may be encouraged to use unethical military force outside the areas of active hostility (see Chamayou 2013, 58; Kaag and Kreps 2014, 2); Enemark 2014, 19-37; Gusterson 2015, 15-21).
These two categories of reasoning are based on the reduced risk to remote-controlled aircrews, and this reduction in risk is based on the physical distance between the crew and the effects of their weapons. If the pilot is seven thousand miles from the enemy, there is no danger of him being killed. Since she cannot be killed, policymakers do not face normal domestic barriers to the use of military force. Since these strikes can be carried out without deploying a large force to the country in question, states employing these systems could potentially conduct violent military action in a particular state without waging a major war with that state. Much of the literature mentioned above is therefore ultimately based on the physical distance between crews and targets.
A secondary focus has recently emerged in literature that differentiates between physical and psychological distance (Asaro 2009; Fitzsimmons and Sangha 2013; Sparrow 2013; Wagner 2014, 1410; Heyns 2016, 11; Lee 2018a). Both psychologists and ethicists have become increasingly aware that psychological distance is conceptually different from physical distance and the two can fall apart. For example, even though they are a great physical distance from the effects of their weapons, the crews of the Predator and Reaper can have psychological effects as if they were much closer (see Chappelle, Goodman), et al. 2019; Chappelle, McDonald, et al. 2012; Fitzsimmons and Sangha 2013; Maguen, butcher, et al. 2009). As US Air Force Colonel Joseph Campo (2015) put it, “the greatest problem that society failed to understand was the ability of technology to both separate the warrior and connect it to combat.” In Peter Lees (2018a) analysis of his interviews with The British Royal Air Force Reaper crews similarly refer to what he calls the “distance paradox”. Although the crews of the RAF Reaper are physically further from their goals than ever before in the 100-year history of the RAF, they are still quite emotionally close. In his own words, “Aircrews had never been so geographically far removed from their destinations, but they witnessed events on site in great detail” (Lee 2018a, 113).
Remote-controlled aircraft, however, also raise questions about a third and so far under the explored feeling of distance in war. It is possible that remote-controlled aircrews can use human judgment in the battlefield as if they were fairly close, despite the great physical distance between the crews and the effects of their weapons.
The ethical literature’s dual focus on physical and psychological distance obscures questions about where remote warfare operators can use human judgment on the battlefield. Psychological distance is a useful conception, but it is limited in that it only relates to the effects of violent action on the flight crew. What I have in mind here complements this conception, but differs significantly from it. Just as war could intimately hit the crews despite the great physical distances, those using distant weapons could use human judgment from a relatively narrow epistemic position despite the great distances. In other words, when psychological distance is about the impact of war on the crews, the concept of human judgment I am thinking of here relates to the impact the crews might have on the war.
A U.S. Air Force Reaper pilot, Lt Clifton, illustrated the relationship between remote crews and their ability to enforce human judgment in this way.
[It’s] A big bonus for that look over the horizon – in the [ground control station] actually being on an airplane [in] the sky. It’s much easier to stay calm and focus on a real overall concept than just tunneling on what you see out of the window of a fighter jet or in the capsule of a fighter jet. By not being physically in this environment, communication between the pilot and the sensor is maintained [operator]and the information [analysts] a lot smoother, a lot more direct and a lot less hectic to make good decisions and I think that’s a huge benefit of actually being there [remotely piloted aircraft] than being in a manned asset.
Before proceeding, it is important to limit the scope of this chapter. Those involved in “drones” have tried to keep up with the rapid development and proliferation. For example, a 2017 study by the Center for New American Security reports that more than 30 countries have or are developing “armed drones” (Ewers, Fish, et al. 2017). A New America study from 2019 also found that 36 countries have “armed drones” (Bergen, Sterman), et al. 2019). The assertions I make in this paper do not apply equally to all of these cases for two reasons. One reason for this is that the pilot or crew’s ability to enforce human judgment depends on a number of factors about the weapon system in question. For example, ISIS has deployed inexpensive quadcopters with 40mm grenades after purchase (Gillis 2017; Rassler 2018; Clover and Feng 2017). Suppose a Western military organization uses such a weapon for local base defense. While such a system falls into the “armed drone” category, it is by no means clear that such a system would give the operator sufficient situational awareness to use human judgment appropriately in response to the dynamics of the battlefield.
The second reason is that because I am dealing with the relationship between physical distance and human judgment, many of my claims apply directly to systems that a military organization overseas deployed within its own territory. As Ulrike Franke reports, as of 2017 only a few countries – the USA, Great Britain and China – are carrying out armed remote-controlled flight operations in this way (Franke 2018, 29). At the moment my arguments therefore apply most directly to the USA and Great Britain, as China’s remote-controlled aircraft program is more opaque (see Kania 2018). In addition, the first hand reports I have collected, which I refer to below, were from US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper crew and support personnel. However, the conclusions in this paper are likely to be more broadly applicable as more states begin to operate remote-controlled aircraft from their own territory.
There is an additional terminological point. “Physical distance” and “psychological distance” are less awkward than “distance, as it affects human judgment,” in large part because “physical” and “psychological” are such simple and widely understood adjectives. The word “judgment” does not provide a ready-made adjective. I suggest the more manageable term “phronetic distance”, which is reminiscent of Aristotle’s term “phronesis” and is often translated as “practical wisdom” or “cleverness” (Aristotle and Crisp 2000, 107; Aristoteles and Irwin 2000, 345). For Aristotle, “phronesis” is neither knowledge of how to perform a particular task nor scientific knowledge. It is a reasoning virtue that enables those who possess it to determine what is best for a person in a variety of circumstances (Aristotle and Irwin 2000, 8993). Courage is the character trait that enables a virtuous person to act courageously. Temperance is the character trait that enables a virtuous person to act with moderation. Phronesis is the characteristic that enables a virtuous person to know what to do under the given circumstances. By “phronetic distance” I mean the relative distance between the battlefield and the place of application of human judgment. As I argue below, phronetic distance and physical distance should be conceptually separated. Although remote-controlled aircrews could be physically several thousand miles from the battlefield, their linguistic position is often much closer.
The bin Laden case
Understanding human judgment and distance in remote-controlled aircraft is difficult because the physical and verbal distance are different. In many cases of military technological developments, the increase in physical distance between warfighter and weapon effects correlates with an increase in phronetic distance. In the oft-cited example of weapons removed earlier, King Henry V’s long archers at Agincourt can attack French knights from afar. This leads to a slight increase in the phronetic distance. During the fleeting seconds that the weapon is in the air, the longbow archers have no control over it – they have no way of making any judgment as to where it will work. Many military technological developments since Agincourt have followed this model: an increase in physical distance leads to an increase in phronetic distance. In contrast to many previous technological developments, in which an increase in physical distance resulted in an increase in phronetic distance, remotely operated aircraft have resulted in an enormous increase in physical distance but a relative decrease in phronetic distance.
To see this, consider two cases of modern remote warfare that are independent of remote-controlled aircraft – namely, the two US attempts to strain Osama bin Laden’s life. In these two cases, the physical distance between the warfighter and the target correlates with the phronetic distance.
In 1998, US President Clinton authorized a rocket attack against Osama bin Laden following the bombings of Al Qaeda on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The US Navy pursued the attack against the location adopted by the US as bin Laden’s location near Khost, Afghanistan, with ship-fired Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Arabian Sea (Kean, Hamilton), et al. 2004, 116 -) 117). Bin Laden had actually planned to go to Khost, where he would likely have been killed on strike. But as Lawrence Wright (2011, 321 – 22322) describes on the way there in a car with his friends, bin Laden said:
“Where do you think, my friends, should we go … Khost or Kabul?”
His bodyguard and others voted for Kabul where friends could visit.
“Then, with God’s help, let’s go to Kabul,” ordered bin Laden – a decision that could have saved his life.
In this case, the naval war officer responsible for launching the cruise missiles was in the Arabian Sea about five hundred miles from the target area. While this distance is significantly closer than that of the remote-controlled airplane pilot, who is thousands of kilometers away, it still exerts military force while remaining out of the area of operations. What is crucial, however, is that the surface war officer in the bin Laden case has no way of enforcing his judgment after the missile is shot down. Just as King Heinrich’s long archers accepted an increase in the speech distance, the cruise missiles also forced an increase in the speech distance. For the long archers this increase was small – the flight time of the arrow is a matter of one-digit seconds. Like longbow arrows, cruise missiles cannot be recalled or rerouted after takeoff, and their flight time is four to six hours (Navy 2018; Shane 2016). And of course, even if the missiles could have been rerouted, the surface war officer does not have an intelligence feedback loop to alert him to the fact that the intelligence reporting was wrong. Although the physical distance was significant, the application of human judgment in response to the real-time dynamics on the ground is completely absent. In this case, the increase in physical distance leads to an increase in phronetic distance.
Compare this 1998 event with the 2011 US attack that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. US President Obama decided on a “capture or kill” mission carried out by special forces that ultimately led to bin Laden’s death. Crucial to this discussion is that the forces in the helicopters and on the ground had both the ability and the authority to use their judgment in response to the real-time dynamics. The raid provides two important examples. The first helicopter to arrive on the site had planned to hover while the operators inside quickly roped into the site. The solid walls of the site, however, had a different effect on airflow than the chain link fence in which the team had practiced. In response to the unexpected and weakening air currents, the helicopter pilot had to park the helicopter on the premises, ultimately during an emergency landing that severely damaged the aircraft. The pilot of the second helicopter saw the landing of the first helicopter and was unsure if the landing and damage were due to enemy fire or mechanical problems. The second pilot therefore decided to land outside the area and force the SEALs to run into the area from there – both were significant deviations from the original plan (Schmidle 2011; Swinford 2011). In this case, the team relied neither on script requests from higher headquarters nor on feedback from communications. They used human judgment in response to the real-time dynamics on the battlefield.
Second, and more importantly, the room from which the US Cabinet and other officials – including President Obama – watched the raid, lost communication with the raid for about 20 to 25 minutes (Swinford 2011) for over half the time Time in which the team was on site (Swinford 2011). Schmidle 2011). During this crucial phase of the “Kill or Capture” mission, the raid team decided to kill Bin Laden rather than capture him due to the real-time dynamics on site. Again, they relied on human judgment. Leon Panetta, then director of the CIA, told reporters, “There was a gun battle on this site. And when they got to the third floor and found bin Laden, I think it was all a split second action by the SEALs (Swinford 2011). The fact that the specialty operators are in close physical proximity to the battlefield and their target enables them to use human judgment from a relatively narrow epistemic position. Their decreased physical distance from the target leads to a decrease in phronetic distance.
In either of these two cases, the physical distance correlates with the phronetic distance. The naval war officer in charge of the 1998 cruise missiles is physically 500 miles from his intended target and the point of application of human judgment is at his physical fingertips. His ability to react to use human judgment in response to real-time dynamics is constrained by the technological limitations of the weapon and the officer’s physical displacement from the target area. However, the special operators of the Abbottabad raid are able to perceive the dynamics of the battlefield in real time and use human judgment in response, as, among other things, they are physically present in the target area.
The task in the remainder of this chapter is to show that, unlike these two examples, in remote-controlled aircraft operations, the increase in physical distance does not necessarily correlate with the increase in phronetic distance.
Phronetic distance and remote-controlled airplanes
At first glance, it might appear that the phronetic distance from which remote-controlled aircrews use human judgment is similar to the phronetic distance in the case of a long-range cruise missile. Unfortunately, our intuitions in response to this question have been based on widespread misunderstandings in both the popular and scientific literature about “drones”. We are often told that these systems are robots (Schneider and Macdonald 2017; Coeckelbergh 2013, 90; Royakkers and van Est 2010, 289; Sharkey 2013, 797); and that they fall into the class of autonomous or semi-autonomous weapons (Kaag and Kreps 2014, vii; Brunstetter and Braun 2011, 338). These descriptors “robot” and “semi-autonomous” are more suitable for cruise missiles. It flies a pre-planned route to a specified destination and the human operator cannot intervene after take-off. None of these claims apply to the remote-controlled aircraft.
Unfortunately, there are few published first-hand reports from remote-controlled aircrew that could either confirm or refute these claims. There are only two US pilot memoirs that I know of and a third that was written by a US intelligence analyst (Martin and Sasser 2010; McCurley 2017; Velicovich and Stewart 2017). Peter Lee also collected first-hand reports from British Royal Air Force Reaper crews in his 2018 book. Reaper Force (Lee 2018b). Campo’s study offers an important, if often overlooked, insight. Although the main focus of his study was on the psychological effects on long-range war crews, he asked U.S. Air Force Predator and Reaper about cases where they had intervened to stop or delay a strike. Among its more than one hundred respondents, twenty-two subjects provided narrative reports in which they used human judgment to intervene to stop or delay a strike. In Campo’s words
All twenty-two stories were remarkably similar. In each story, the crew were instructed to hit a target, but something just didn’t feel right to them about the situation, target identification, or surroundings. In either case, the crew took positive steps to understand the situation, develop their own mental model of the battlefield, and then recommend (or require) any course of action other than immediate weapon intervention [remotely piloted aircraft]. All twenty-two people strongly believe that if they had simply followed instructions without delay or critical investigation, collateral damage or civilian casualties would be nearly certain.
(Campo 2015, 7–8)
Although Campo does not use the words “human judgment,” his description is similar to my description of human judgment above. The topic Campo observed reappeared anecdotally in my own conversations with the Predator and Reaper crews. A US Air Force pilot, Captain Andy, told me about a case where the airman on the ground team who led the strike – a Joint Terminal Attack Controller or JTAC (pronounced “Jay-Tack”) – was confused and disoriented while you were with you take enemy fire:
The friendlies were shot at. I believe both sides were 75 meters apart. We have a 9 line [attack briefing from the JTAC] shoot friendly forces. The sensor [operator] was like “holy crap”. That’s just not right. “” The hair on the back of the neck got up, then we correlated more and then we said to the JTAC, “Hey, you gave us a 9-line for yourself.” […] “The bars are over here.” You don’t get that with a robot. […] You will give [the robot] a grid and tell them to shoot it and [it’s] will shoot it. “
This report and others who like it contradict the received wisdom about how distant war fighters will react to the dynamics of the battlefield. For example, Rob Sparrow (2013, 100 -) 101) in his chapter “War without Virtue” from 2013 anticipates that “since [remote] The operators are not in danger. It is more plausible to expect them to follow the directions of other people who may be geographically distant, and also to wait for them to follow the directions. “
Lt Clifton, a Reaper pilot and early sensor operator, disagrees. He mentions three times that he “pushed back” against the instructions of the JTAC.
These three strikes would have been legal based on actions, locations, and what was observed, but other factors I voiced (I wasn’t happy with the shot) […] You just don’t have a warm fuzzy because you don’t have all the necessary details. […] I’ve had three special occasions on which I said it and the JTAC said, “Copy this, we’re holding back”.
Clifton continued, “It’s a two-way process between JTACs and the flight crew. JTACs can tell us that we are“ hot ”all day and give us orders to strike, but of course as a crew we don’t have to because they Weapon is ultimately our responsibility ”(Clifton 2019).
One instructor-sensor operator, Technical Sergeant Megan, put it this:
There [have] There have been several situations where I would say the conversation between the pilot in command or the crew and the JTAC […] is – I don’t want to say “heated” but you feel this needs to be done and the crew [says]”We’re not comfortable with this” for some reason. … At the end of the day this is [the pilot’s] Weapon. This is our plane. This is what we like to do and what we don’t like to do. […] Ultimately, I would say that most of our crews are very good at advocating for it.
I asked another instructor-sensor operator named Master Sergeant Sean if he had ever experienced a moral dilemma on the seat. He said:
I wouldn’t say I ever had a moral dilemma […] We can only come to a sensible solution because we normally work so well as a crew between me as the sensor operator and the pilot […] JTACs are quite receptive when we push them back and say, “Hey, we’re just not comfortable with the strike. Can we just hold back a little?”
I had several [instances] where we were uncomfortable with a particular strike just because we were worried about CIVCAS [civilian casualties] and things like that, so we huddled back to the JTAC and waited, and lo and behold, we could eliminate the target in clear terrain without CIVCAS.
Although the resounding claims made by the U.S. Reaper crew members interviewed suggest they are able to use human judgment, there are still limitations to the crews’ ability to use human judgment.
Phronetic distance in traditionally piloted aircraft
The above quotations do not suggest that the distant crews can enforce human judgment to the same extent as the special operators did during the raid on Bin Laden. One of the most significant differences between the two is the difference between their epistemic positions. Seeing a target through a target capsule at 20,000 feet elevates the crew to greater awareness than was the case with a cruise missile from 1998. However, the epistemic state of the remotely operated aircrew is still very different from that of the field soldier. Retired Army General Stanley McChrystal, former Coalition Forces commander in Afghanistan, expressed epistemic concern: “When you see things in 2D, in a photo, or on a flat screen, you think you know what is going on but you don’t. ” If you don’t know what is going on, you only know what you are seeing in two dimensions ”(quoted in Kennebeck 2017). So how can we understand phronetic distance in remote controlled airplanes? Wenn die phronetische Entfernung, die für den Betrieb von ferngesteuerten Flugzeugen relevant ist, weder mit früheren Generationen von Langstreckenwaffen noch wie mit traditionellen Kriegskämpfern am Boden vergleichbar ist, ist der traditionellere Vergleichspunkt möglicherweise der traditionellere Pilot. Das heißt, obwohl diese relativ junge technologische Entwicklung tiefgreifende Auswirkungen auf die physische und psychische Distanz hatte, ist die phronetische Distanz im Flugbetrieb möglicherweise kontinuierlicher.
Ich sprach mit Captain Shaun und Technical Sergeant Megan in einer Bodenkontrollstation, während sie eine Einsatzmission über Afghanistan flogen. Captain Shaun hat Erfahrung sowohl als Reaper-Pilot als auch als MC-12 Liberty-Pilot – ein unbewaffnetes, traditionell pilotiertes Propellerflugzeug, das für Geheimdienste, Überwachung und Aufklärung eingesetzt wird. Während des Fluges der MC-12 in Afghanistan berichteten die zahlreichen Geheimdienstanalysten und Bodenpersonal, die seinen Video-Feed sahen, von zwei Personen, die ein improvisiertes Sprengmittel (IED) in einem Durchlass unter einer Straße platzierten. Die verschiedenen Teilnehmer der Operation bereiteten eine Angriffsbesprechung für ein anderes Flugzeug vor. Kapitän Shaun und seine Besatzung waren nicht davon überzeugt, dass es sich bei dem, was sie sahen, um eine IED-Stellung handelte, und griffen wiederholt in die Dynamik ein, die sich in Richtung eines Streiks aufbaute. In Captain Shauns Worten: “Es fühlte sich nicht richtig an. Wir haben die Tötungskette mehrmals blockiert. “Die” Tötungskette “ist die Abkürzung des US-Militärs für den dynamischen Zielprozess. Sie besteht aus den sechs Schritten” Finden, Reparieren, Verfolgen, Zielen, Angreifen und Bewerten “(USAF 2019). Kapitän Shaun sagte:
Die beiden Leute, die wir beobachteten, gingen auf zwei erwachsene Erwachsene zu. Als wir die relative Größe sahen, wussten wir, dass die beiden Leute, die wir beobachtet hatten, Kinder waren. Sie [had been] Ziehen Sie Stöcke aus einem Abzugskanal, damit das Wasser fließt. Wenn wir die Tötungskette nicht blockiert hätten, wer weiß, was passiert wäre?
Meiner Ansicht nach ist dies zweifellos ein Fall, in dem die Besatzung im Schlachtfeld menschliches Urteilsvermögen anwandte. In diesem Fall korreliert die phronetische Distanz mit der physischen Distanz. Captain Shauns physische und phronetische Position befindet sich 15.000 Fuß über dem Ziel und er ist in der Lage, von dieser Position aus zu beobachten und einzugreifen. Wäre er ein Soldat vor Ort gewesen, wäre seine epistemische Position anders gewesen, die Tatsache, dass die beiden Menschen Kinder waren, wäre offensichtlicher gewesen, und seine Fähigkeit, menschliches Urteilsvermögen anzuwenden, wäre gestärkt worden.
Als ich Captain Shaun nach den Unterschieden zwischen seiner Fähigkeit, menschliches Urteilsvermögen im traditionell pilotierten MC-12 und im ferngesteuerten Reaper anzuwenden, fragte, sagte er, dass es im Reaper noch einfacher sei, die Tötungskette zu unterbrechen, weil er jetzt nicht nur für verantwortlich ist Die Kamera sorgt für das Situationsbewusstsein, aber auch für die Waffe. “Ich kann sagen” Ich bin der A-Code [the pilot in command]. Es ist meine Waffe. Mein Sensorbediener mag es nicht. Wir machen das nicht. “Sgt. Megan fügte hinzu:” Sie müssen so viel Respekt haben, dass es ein menschliches Leben ist, das Sie sich nehmen. Ich werde es immer noch aus den richtigen Gründen tun, aber es muss aus den richtigen Gründen sein. “Aber wie wir bereits gesehen haben, gibt es einige Bedingungen, unter denen die Position einer halben Welt entfernt die epistemische Position verbessern kann, vielleicht besonders dann, wenn freundliche Kräfte nehmen Feuer.
Fazit: Das Urteil stärken
Wenn die erste Einschränkung für die Anwendung menschlichen Urteils durch die ferngesteuerte Flugzeugbesatzung im Schlachtfeld ihre epistemische Position ist, ist die zweite die organisatorischen Einschränkungen ihrer Autonomie. Dies ist keine Frage der technologischen Leistungsfähigkeit, sondern der Organisationskultur, der Lehre und der Ausbildung. Die technologische Leistungsfähigkeit – die Visualisierung des Schlachtfelds über hochauflösende Kameras in mehreren Segmenten des Lichtspektrums; die langen Wartezeiten über dem Zielgebiet; und das integrierte Netzwerk von Betreibern, Geheimdienstanalysten und Kommandanten – ist eine notwendige, aber unzureichende Voraussetzung für die Anwendung menschlichen Urteils im Schlachtfeld.
For the last few decades, many Western militaries, including NATO on the whole, have moved toward a concept of ‘mission command’ according to which commanders issue mission-type orders with an emphasis on the commander’s intent to ‘thereby empowering agile and adaptive [subordinate] leaders with freedom to conduct operations’ (Roby and Alberts 2010, xvi; Scaparrotti and Mercier 2018, 2017, 6, 18, 37; Storr 2003). The freedom to conduct operations that is so central to mission command consists in the freedom to employ human judgment in the battlespace. In this approach, subordinate commanders, to include pilots in command, will retain the authority required to apply human judgment even in complex and difficult circumstances.
A recurring, though not universal, theme in my interviews with Reaper crews was that commanders at the squadron level and above would support pilots’ decisions when those pilots employed human judgment – and especially restraint – in the battlespace. Though the interviewees were with American Reaper crewmembers, it is noteworthy that Reaper crewmembers from the UK, France, Italy, Australia, and The Netherlands train alongside one another – perhaps inculcating this empowered approach to human judgment (Tran 2015; Murray 2013; Stevenson 2015; Fiorenza 2019). As these systems continue to proliferate, however, it is not yet clear whether all the states that will operate them will continue to value aircrew autonomy.
Finally, as military technology continues to develop it will be important to compare the application of human judgment in remote weapons employment to potential future use of autonomous weapons. In many instances, it has been human judgment, rather than targeting systems, that have identified errors and prevented catastrophic strikes. As militaries continue to develop artificial intelligence systems and apply them in the targeting process, they risk eroding the crucial application of human judgment in some situations. If nothing else, this discussion of human judgment in the battlespace should motivate developers and military commanders, not merely to ask which military tasks can be automated, but also to ask where in the battlespace human judgment ought to be preserved.
*The views expressed in this chapter are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the US Government.
 In March of 2019, I interviewed 31 MQ-9 Reaper aircrew members and support personnel at Creech and Shaw Air Force Bases. The interviews were anonymous at the interviewees’ request and were intended to provide first-hand perspectives rather than to draw qualitative or quantitative conclusions. The result was more than eight hours of recorded audio and shorthand notes.
 This is a contested point. In Schmidle’s account, he cites a special operations officer who claims that ‘There was never any question of detaining or capturing him—it wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees.’ Because I am after the conceptual distinction between physical and phronetic distance, this disagreement can be set to one side.
 Martin’s memoir is particularly contentious within the US Air Force Reaper (and formerly Predator) community. See, for example, Byrnes, C. M. W. 2018. Review: ‘We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age.’ Air and Space Power Journal, 32.
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Byrnes, Captain Michael W. 2018. ‘Review: We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age.’ Air and Space Power Journal, 32.
Campo, Joseph L., 2015. ‘Distance in War: The Experience of MQ-1 and MQ-9 Aircrew.’ Air and Space Power Journal.
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