What Garard’s poem does best is return us to a proper understanding of war as not a place of moral justification, but a place of moral complexity, where armies ignorant of morality, or at least consciously suppressing it, clash by night.
Over the past year, a primitive type of WarBot has become a formidable battlefield weapon: the small unmanned aerial system. The threat materialized in October 2016 when a drone booby-trapped by the Islamic State killed two Kurdish soldiers. Within a few months, the Islamic State was flying tens of aerial bombardment missions each day, displayed the capability to drop grenades down the hatches of tanks, and reportedly flew up to a dozen aircraft at a time. The threat was so severe that the Mosul offensive nearly stalled.
While harnessing technological improvements in the civilian sector to improve the capability of logistics, the U.S. military must proceed with caution. While many of the technologies––such as delivery drones and 3D printing––are in their nascent stages, asking important questions about the why, how, and in what context these technologies will be used might help alleviate future friction. U.S. strategists should be clear-eyed about what future logistics innovations can and cannot accomplish.
Whether you call them drones, remotely piloted vehicles, or unmanned vehicles, they’re all just tools of warfare. And forgive the banality of the point, but tools of warfare are used by humans who seek to maximize violence against their adversary, and that requires complement rather than replacement. Most importantly, we should also recall that in non-linear positive-sum games, as combat is exhibited as, the interaction of people and weaponry leads to a cumulative advantage if used asymmetrically. As such, the vast balance of history teaches us that we will continue to perceive technological/tactical cycles as something of a progression of coordination (synchronization), to cooperation (integration), and then ultimately, to a combination for strategic effect (convergence). We’ve only just begun to conceive of drones in the proper terms of complement, and it is past time to do so.