It is an oft repeated ‘truth’ that killing by remote control separates the operator from the victim and means that the person who kills by remote control is ‘detached’ and therefore more likely to kill dispassionately and inhumanely.
An article in Air Force Technology suggests the opposite is true. According to AFT:
“This may explain one of the unexpected developments of the deployment of UAVs. While it was initially thought that those operating drones would be more callous about their actions than personnel operating in the battlefield, the opposite now appears to be true. Some analysts argue that UAV operators may almost care too much, and that they are experiencing higher levels of combat stress than some units in Afghanistan, with significantly increased fatigue, emotional exhaustion and burnout.“Historically, each military service has used a different type of ground station and software to control its aircraft.”
Psychologists argue that operators are also subject to a unique stress, known as “whiplash transition”, referring to the way in which they can be in command of a deadly mission and then drive home to their family and children. However, some also argue that the trauma suffered by drone operators is overstated and that it can never be comparable to that endured by those in the battlefield, whose lives are at risk.”
Or maybe, separated from the military environment of the battlefield they just feel very, very guilty for the killings they commit. These moral individuals, who ‘care too much’ are quite capable of walking out the door and refusing to participate. How many do?
With high resolution imagery making the operator able to look into the eyes of the target without even being detected, and with imaging technology always improving the connection between the killed and the killer may get even stronger.
But the arms industry has a solution. Killing systems are to be increasingly robotised, which will mean that the operators will again become detached. Perhaps even isolated from the before/after images of targets being turned from sentient human being to ‘clouds of pink mist’ , in an instant.
And no doubt even now operators are being tested to determine whether they have a suitable level of sociopathy to permit them to vapourise targets without guilt.