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Javier Gárate

In the last few years there has been an increase in the number of initiatives against drones and other forms of killing by remote control, as reported in this newsletter. As warfare and war technologies change, so does the focus of our campaigning. Is this a sign that our campaigning, rather than setting our own agendas, is merely a reaction to the agenda of the powerholders?

Why is it that there are so many new initiatives against the robotisation of war?

In the words of anti-drones campaigner Chris Cole: "Without potential footage of the grieving relatives of soldiers who put their lives at risk, politicians are under more pressure to send drones because there is no perceived cost in doing so, and will thus increase the numbers of conflicts". Drones can actually increase military conflicts, rather than reducing them, as the attacker perceives that there are fewer risks in taking military action.

Moreover, you can argue that the accuracy of this technology is not as reliable as it's exponents suggest. For example, there is no such things as pinpoint precision when it comes to drones - this is dramatically manifested in the huge numbers of civilian victims caused by drone attacks. The question of who is responsible and who takes the decisions in these attacks is also not a small one. With drone pilots thousand of miles away from the battle field, and with technology moving towards completely autonomous drones, the risks are enormous. This technology also contributes massively towards the arm race, as now everyone wants to have a drone, and here is where the war profiteers come in, ready as always to make a killing from war! The main producers of drones have been Israel and the US, but the technology is moving so quickly that very often you read of a new country producing their own drones.

Is the technology the problem or just what it is used for?

This is not an easy question to answer, and I think we need more debate about it. There are many who argue that drones for civilian use can be good. For example, how it's hard to argue against the use of drones combating big fires. However, at the same time we know that civilian use of drones has a big impact on privacy, as you could be being filmed right now by a drone as you read this editorial. The military is one of the main drivers behind the development of this technology, and most civilian-use drones are about more and more control, I very much think that we could do without the technology all together.

It appears that apart from being horrified by killings by remote control, another reason for choosing it as a campaign focus is that there is the perception that here there is the chance to succeed. But what do we mean by being successful? Is regulation of the use of this technology enough? Do we think we can stop what at the moment seems like an unstoppable trend in warfare? What are our goals when campaigning against killing by remote control? At WRI we don't want to say we prefer human to robots killers - we just don't want any killers. We are against
killer robots as well as we are against human killers.

As new initiatives are being formed, what's important is to avoid duplication. For this, it is important to know what the specific focus and expertise of the different groups are and how they can complement each other. This means we very much welcome the initiative started by CodePink of forming a Global Drones Network, and hope that it becomes a place for international networking against drones, where international campaigns and actions can be initiated, and also a place for international solidarity, especially with communities at the receiving end of this deadly technology. In WRI - itself a network - we know too well of the difficulties of keeping a network alive and active, so we wish all the best of luck to this Global Network, and that together we will all say:
stop killing by remote control!