Saturday, March 16, 2024

The Way of the Knife


The Way of the Knife

Peter Schultz


                  So, I am reading this book, The Way of the Knife, by Mark Mazzetti, which is about “The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth.” In the course of the book, Mazzetti describes how the CIA had come to adopt the armed Predator, a drone, because it was thought to be “the ultimate weapon for a secret war. It was a tool that killed quietly, a weapon unbound by the normal rules of accountability in combat.” [99] And while there was some resistance to adopting this weapon, ultimately it was adopted and used. Which seemed even logical to me.


                  But then I found myself wondering how we humans seem so undisturbed by this weapon and have so little reluctance to embrace it. Why did the choice to embrace it seem so obvious? And I reasoned as follows.


                  There was a war on and so there was a need to kill our enemies, and of course to do so as efficiently and safely as possible. The choice was obvious because killing efficiently and safely is obviously good. So, killing is good and, thus, we should want to kill and, of course, we should want to kill efficiently and safely. So, we should embrace the most efficient, safest killing power available, including WMDs if available. That makes sense.


                  But a doubt arose in the form of a question, Is such killing virtuous? Is it courageous? Is it honorable? And if it isn’t, as seems likely, what happens to those humans who engage in it? That is, does it matter if human beings behave virtuously? Hmmm.


                  So, embracing armed Predators in order to assassinate people is the obvious, common-sense choice only if it doesn’t matter if we humans behave virtuously. This is why there is a nagging doubt about using armed drones to assassinate people – because we have a nagging suspicion that it genuinely matters if we humans live virtuously. Embracing armed drones, Predators, only makes perfect sense if we ignore the demands of virtue, if we have come to think that virtue may be dispensed with because there need not be untoward consequences.


                  And this nagging suspicion is accompanied by another one, viz., that progress isn’t the unalloyed good so many think it is, insofar as progress leads us to think that virtue is irrelevant. For example, courage may be replaced by modern, technologically sophisticated weapons, like drones or “smart bombs.” Technologically sophisticated warfare makes courage and honor seem quaint, old fashioned, even reactionary. And the quaint, the traditional, the reactionary, that is, the virtuous, might well be diagnosed as suffering from PTSD and in need of psychological adjustments. Because after all, it is the virtuous who often stand in the way of progress.



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