The transformation of warfare into man-hunting
Theory of the drone 2: Hunting. This is so rich and suggestive it's hard to excerpt it, so more or less at random. The post is a commentary on Grégoire Chamayou‘s Théorie du drone (2013):
Chamayou’s central point here is that, within the apparatus of militarized man-hunting, ‘detection’ is above all a visual modality (and much of Foucault’s work involved a sustained interrogation of the gaze). Chamayou argues that drones promise something like a ‘God’s eye view’; their protagonists claim that their near real-time, full-motion and increasingly high-definition video feeds have revolutionised the capacity to provide a constant view of the enemy. ....
Chamayou argues that this political technology is far more ‘economical’ than Bentham’s Panopticon, which Foucault uses so powerfully to figure modern surveillance, because it requires neither spatial partitions nor architectural demarcations. It is what Zygmunt Bauman might call a ‘liquid’ technology, since it needs only airspace to function (though the current interest in A2/AD (‘anti-access/areal denial’) is a sharp reminder that at present – and even for the foreseeable future – Predators and Reapers can only hunt in uncontested air space).
The shadows cast by these capacities are far longer than the supposedly ‘precision strikes’ they facilitate: they impose a new landscape of threat and dread. Here Chamayou invokes the Stanford/NYU report Living under drones (2012) to conclude that the presence of Predators and Reapers terrifies whole populations who live under them (see also my commentary here). ....
What Chamayou is after in what elsewhere he calls ‘the manhunt doctrine‘ is something that transcends the military (this form of ‘man-hunting’ deliberately blurs the distinctions between conventional military and police operations to produce what Chamayou calls ‘hybrid operations, monstrous offspring [enfants terribles] of the police and the military, of war and peace’) and seeks to expose the political technologies, the discursive systems and the scopic regimes from which it derives its wider authority and through which it exercises its powers.
In doing so it follows directly from his previous work, Les chasses à l’homme (in English, Manhunts), which promises a philosophical history – or, as I said in my previous post, a genealogy. But Théorie du drone is more than the next chapter, because it has much to say about the transformation of ‘techno-war’ into something radically different, a modality of later modern war that is focused more than ever on the identification, pursuit and elimination of individuals.
Of course, if a trans-national, post-state, morally pathological elite ends up controlling the global airspace with these things, questions like "Will military drones be used domestically?" will seem charmingly naive. What is this "domestic" of which you speak?
NOTE "Manhunt" may be giving too much credit, to today's technology, at least. After all, blowing entire wedding parties to pink mist remotely is fun, too.