Skip navigation

Derek Gregory’s piece and his description of the almost intimate connection of drones to their targets is indicative of the melding (as this course discusses) of the real and the virtual into a hybrid – the real and the virtual are no longer mutually exclusive. He describes a “hypervisibility” (193), or “a kind of obscenity of accuracy that abolishes the distinctions between ‘permission and prohibition, presence and absence’” (193). As drone pilots surveil their targets, they become more connected to troops on the ground, and more connected to the “purpose” of their drone navigation. Particularly in Pakistan, a “disconnected connection” is essential in combatting a new generation of warfare.

 

However, the question of Osama bin Laden’s assassination comes to mind when considering the accuracy and effectiveness of drone surveillance and drone attacks, particularly in the context of a post-9/11 global network. Why was Seal Team Six chosen to kill or capture OBL, instead of a drone strike? The goals of Seal Team Six are reminiscent, if not nearly identical, to the goals of a drone strike: enter Abbottabad without detection and to capture or kill bin Laden. The goal was not to preserve OBL’s life and bring him in for questioning – this was an option, but not the primary goal. Capture or kill. Based on his previous activities with al Qaeda, why would the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence bank on the idea of OBL surrendering? If they did move forward with the assumption that OBL and other members of his family/compound would respond with firepower or lethal weapons, why was Seal Team Six put in jeopardy if a drone strike could more efficiently and with fewer casualties take out the target? What does the decision to rely on manpower in this situation say about the pitfalls and challenges presented by drone strikes? Gregory speaks about the intimacy drone pilots experience, and their removal from the site as being a mere 18 inches. Drone pilots, he continues, identify with the soldiers on the ground – if all of this is true, why was Seal Team Six still selected for this particular mission? Is there still a gap between real life and virtual life that has yet to be bridged in the development of new technologies and new media?