Lessons from Surkov’s Russia: The Split Personality (Dis)Order of Modern Geopolitics

What we fail to understand about Russia is not greed. What we fail to understand is not the power-hungry Mr. Putin, nor the corruption that stems from his example. If there is one thing we should be able to grasp, it is the power-hungry and the corrupt. Rather, what we fail to understand about Russia seems to be much broader: its entire political scene. This is emphatically not an argument for the irreducible difference between national communities – the Cold War mantra of a shady, alien group known as ‘the Communists’. Instead, the Russian political scene, though it emerges out of history, is a relatively recent and ongoing project.

As a number of you may have been made aware, thanks to his short film in Charlie Brooker’s 2014 Wipe on the BBC, Adam Curtis has produced a wonderfully terrifying portrait of Russian politics, at the centre of which sits Putin’s former First Deputy, Vladislav Surkov. Surkov is a man with a passion, not –as we might expect of one loyal to Putin – for traditional militancy and State censorship, but for Western art and literature. Now a somewhat over-used quote, Surkov responded to Obama’s sanctions upon him with the defiant proclamation that:

“The U.S. I am interested in is Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollack. I don’t need a visa to access their work. So I lose nothing”[1]

It is out of our prejudices that this selection of figures appears so shocking. We believe that Russia desires our trade, involvement in our neoliberal flows. This, of course, is a material requirement for power, thus fitting into the aforementioned framework. But what perturbs us is that a Russian political figure would desire – not primarily for material necessity but for interest, enjoyment etc. – to share in some of the West’s most radically liberal cultural icons.

The difference, perhaps, between what we consider our interest, and Surkov’s interest, in such figures, is not that he does not understand their ideas enough – that, being an outsider to their origins, he has misinterpreted them – but that he understands them too deeply. Surkov, as opposed to so many of our politicians and policymakers, has been impassioned enough about these radical notions to actually apply them; to shift them from the realm of ideas to the realm of action. A caveat, however: what Surkov has applied of these artists is not their whole person, for of course Allen Ginsberg would approve neither of Russia’s militarism, nor its deep homophobia. Rather, what is applied is their style; their ideas stripped of ideological or personal context. This, we might say, is an abuse of theory – to take the kernel without its shell, so to speak – but, in another sense, it is theory; it is how theory, at its heart, functions. That is, theory means little without being mobilised by a certain group with a certain set of interests (Kauppi, 2014).

Andrew Wilson (2014) has been very perceptive in saying that, in opposition to the obsession with Putin as a personality in the global media – “what is Putin thinking?”; “what will Putin do next?”; is Putin mad?”, and so on – what is most significant about Russia is its political culture and its corresponding ‘political technologies’. Political science has determined Russia to be a form of ‘guided’ or ‘managed’ democracy, but what is more difficult to conceive is how such a system is made possible and, furthermore, sustainable. According to Curtis (2014), Surkov’s particular technology is crucial here. Inspired by modern art, his policies intend to mould the political culture into a fluid and unpredictable world; a world in which even the most solid of ground shifts constantly beneath one’s feet.

Yet, far from being an alien concept, does this not remind us of something very close to our own philosophical tradition? The disorientating experience, the ‘drunkenness’ of modern life, as described by Rousseau’s (1761) young protagonist Saint Preux:

“With such a multitude of objects passing before my eyes, I’m getting dizzy. Of all the things that strike me, there is none that holds my heart, yet all of them together disturb my feelings, so that I forget what I am and who I belong to”[2]

What prevents us from understanding an idea so familiar to us is, then, the extent to which the condition of disorientation has been made real in Russia; the totality of spaces into which the sensation of dizziness has flowed. When we think of the modern condition of flux and instability in the context of our own society, it is certain sectors which come to mind, such as the economy and social media, but in Russia it is the all-encompassing lifeworld of politics, both formal and informal; national and international, that is characterised by this (dis)order.

 

Questionable Identities: Literature, Contemporary Warfare, and the Pilotless Condition

“War in general is not declared. It simply begins…”

(Georgii Isserson, 1936[3])

In the mid-19th century, when Russia’s population were repressed under the (first) ‘white terror’ of Tsar Alexander II, literature came to be highly respected as a form of social commentary, capable of moving under the censor’s nose and inspiring dissent (Pistolero, 2012). It is a sobering indication of the current political (dis)order then that, in 2013, a short story named ‘Without Sky’, apparently authored by Natan Dubovitsky (2014) – which talked of ‘non-linear warfare’ and offered a seeming critique of the 21st century’s ‘pilotless’ weaponry – was revealed to be the pseudonymous writing of none other than Vladislav Surkov himself.

This piece of literature, along with another – a more straightforward analysis by the current Chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov[4] – have been analysed with hindsight as a statement of intent for the operations conducted in Crimea and Ukraine, and more generally as a template for future military engagements. Not only do they vanquish the image of Russia as a backwards state in terms of its expressions of power; they may also reveal something of the political culture, and the way in which this culture is built upon a modern political technology of flux.

Even before the content of Surkov’s story is addressed, it is worth noting the likelihood that he suspected, or perhaps even planned, the unveiling of his author’s true identity. The purpose of the pseudonym in this case was not to hide identity – to disseminate the state’s discourse from the apparently legitimate, neutral voice of the author named Dubovitsky – but to demonstrate that identity could be hidden, and thus to bring into question the relevance of identity itself. If Surkov is Dubovitsky, who else – of our authors, our academics and our journalists – might he also be?

Whether it was leaked by the office of Surkov himself, or discovered independently, the information ‘Dubovitsky = Surkov’ appears to have come from an outside source. It is an object external to Surkov, the verity of which he can therefore afford to flirt with – feeling neither the need to deny, nor confirm, the rumour outright – whilst the influence of both himself and his alter-ego are expanded by its uncertain buzz. No matter how certain we are that Dubovitsky is Surkov, the concept of two people being one person remains preposterous, a thing of gothic horror (Jekyll and Hyde; Frankenstein and his Monster) or clinical insanity. To the accusations that “Dubovitsky is Surkov”, Surkov needs not even posit an audible repost; his presence alone responds on his behalf: “No, I am Surkov”. This ‘I am’ is the one thing that we, the subject, can prove in and of ourselves, and it is not the right of anyone else to deny it.

In other words, what Surkov maintains is a self-imposed ‘plausible deniability’, that phrase coined by the CIA in the 1960s to describe the pragmatic ignorance of its own agents concerning the organisation’s operations.  This strategy is the first shadow cast before the Ukraine conflict by this work of fiction, for, just as Surkov is able, in spite of all reasonable evidence, to suspend indefinitely the inevitable confession that he is Dubovitsky, Putin managed, until April 2014, to suspend the inevitable confession that the insignia-less ‘little green men’ seen aiding pro-Russian separatists were, in fact, Russia’s own troops.

What we fail to comprehend is honesty concerning the very act of deceit. The Russian political elite holds both its own population and the global community in thrall with its truth; its truth about its lies. They construct themselves, and the Western world too, as a singular boy who cried wolf. They have lied so many times, and then admitted to it – Surkov, for instance, has happily divulged his sponsorship of various groups, from the pro-Putin Nashi youth, to neo-Nazis, to human rights NGOs (Curtis, 2014; Pomerantsev, 2014) – that there is complete distrust, not just of certain governments or leaders, but of everyone: both Putin’s regime and their opposition; both civil society and the global media. Everything, the Russian population has been taught, is potentially a lie.

The net effect is as profound as to destabilise the boundaries of truth and morality. This is hinted at by Surkov’s fiction, which refers to a generation who, as a result of the advent of non-linear war, have lost the ability to perceive the third dimension in both a physical – depth, height (thus the title) – and cognitive/conceptual sense. The ‘two-dimensionals’ may know truths and lies when they are displayed in black and white, but, faced with those who know the art of deceit; “third words” and grey areas, they are blind.

For Russia, the boundaries – the borders and codes – of geopolitics are similarly two dimensional, blind to the third dimension – the skies, but also the cyber- and robotized realms – in which contemporary conflicts are played out. Thus, the code of sovereignty is not merely disdained; its very reality is questioned. There is the specific belief, as Wilson (2014) notes, that ‘Ukraine is not a real country’, but there is also a more general conceptual outlook, from which all those borders we currently consider to mark sovereign states are potentially, instantaneously, non-existent. As Gerasimov observes:

“…a perfectly thriving state can, in a matter of months and even days, be transformed into an arena of fierce armed conflict, become a victim of foreign intervention, and sink into a web of chaos, humanitarian catastrophe, and civil war”

If contemporary war “just begins”, then the legal protections of sovereignty are irrelevant, for, as soon as the conflict has started – the first moment at which, without a declaration or even a rattling of sabres, the law has the opportunity to act – the sovereignty of the state in question has already dissolved.

But the Russian political culture aims to ferment and exploit that disease of two-dimensionality in populations as well. The time of non-linear war involves not only ‘pilotless’ machines – i.e. drones – but also ‘pilotless’ governments, “organised as the result of democratic revolutions”. The hybridity of this war – the cooperation of armies with special operations units, police forces, the media, and the population itself – is not only the key to its success, but also its self-legitimisation. This war, because it is hybrid, can disguise itself as something other than war: it is a ‘covert intelligence mission’ or a ‘global policing operation’. By the time Putin confessed of his ‘little green men’, their presence in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine was no-longer one of war; invasion; nation-destroying, but of humanitarian nation-building, a required measure for ‘pilotless’ states.

This has been the sinister underbelly of humanitarianism and development ever since colonialism in its traditional sense was brought to an end, but what is novel about Russia is how they have taken a strategy conceived in foreign affairs and transposed it onto the domestic. The induced dizziness of Russian political culture is, in this sense, a strategy with the ambition of creating the condition of pilotless-ness in its own population.

To the outside world, Russia has carried post-democracy through to its ultimate end, managing to create a simulated democracy without ever moving through a period of democracy that might be considered genuine. But, to those inside Russia, the state might be close to nihilism: the materialist belief in nothing apart from that which can be directly perceived. Except of course, because nothing at all can be directly perceived any-longer, the present psychology is more akin to the disparaging meaning of nihilism, or a post-nihilism, whereby all that is left is a passive and apolitical state of disbelief and non-engagement. Afflicted by pilotless-ness, a kind of psychosis, the population begin to see themselves as victim-objects, existent only through and for the charitable aid of their government.

A dystopian postmodern vision this may be, but it is vital to realise that it is possible, and in no way confined to Russia. Surkov is, in many ways, the modern political subject par excellence: happily blind to morality and happily void of ideological consistency; an expert in split personalities and marketing hypocrisies.  This is the same complaint increasingly made of British, American, and other western politicians, as well as of their media and their publics. It is a global trend rooted in a lack of thought and critique concerning thought itself; concerning the contradictory state of our social and political existence. This ‘pop nihilism’, as Berman (2010: 32) calls it, denoted by the tendency to react to the obtuse with the apathetic, is a dangerous stance to take in the increasingly contradictory, unstable nature of today’s political culture.

 

[1]Quoted in Kassel, W. (2014).

[2] Quoted in Berman, M. (2010 [1982]): 18.

[3] Quoted in Gerasimov, ‘The Value of Science in Prediction’. Available in Galeotti (2014).

[4] ‘The Value of Science in Prediction’. Original in: Military-Industrial Kurier, Feb 27th 2013. Available in Galeotti (2014).

References

Berman, M. (2010 [1982]). All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. London & New York: Verso.

Curtis, A. (2014). Untitled. In Charlie Brooker’s 2014 Wipe. BBC. Film and transcript available at: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/12/31/bbcs_adam_curtis_on_the_contradictory_vaudeville_of_post-modern_politics.html

Dubovitsky, N. (2014). ‘Without Sky’. Russian Pioneer. 46(1). Translation (B. Bowler) available at: http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue582/without_sky.html.

Galeotti, M. (2014). ‘The ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’ and Russian Non-Linear War’. In Moscow’s Shadows. 06.07.2014. http://inmoscowsshadows.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/the-gerasimov-doctrine-and-russian-non-linear-war/.

Isserson, G. (1936). The Evolution of Operational Art.

Kassel, W. (2014). ‘Tupac in the Kremlin’. Foreign Policy. 20.03.2014. http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/03/20/tupac-in-the-kremlin/

Kauppi, N. (2014).  ‘Knowledge Warfare: Social Scientists as Operators of Global Governance’. International Political Sociology. 8(3), 330-332.

Pistolero. (2012). ‘A History of Russian Nihilism’. Pistols Drawn. 07.01.2012. http://pistolsdrawn.org/a-history-of-russian-nihilism/.

Pomerantsev, P. (2014). ‘The Hidden Author of Putinism: how Vladislav Surkov invented the new Russia’. The Atlantic. 07.11. 2014. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/11/hidden-author-putinism-russia-vladislav-surkov/382489/.

Rousseau, J. (1761). Julie, ou la Nouvelle Héloïse.

Wilson, A. (2014). ‘The Modus Operandi of Putin’s Russia’. European Council on Foreign Relations. 08.12.2014.

http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_the_modus_operandi_of_putins_russia383

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Exhibition: Conflict, Time, Photography – Tate Modern, London. Scarred Skins and Scarred Lands: Violence and the Photographic Lapse

This exhibition holds the viewer by way of its curation. The works, all concerning various conflicts – from the American civil war, to Vietnam and the Gulf – are threaded together along a strict linear timeline. Most interestingly though, the form of time is non-historical. It showcases works created between 1850 and the present, but it does not arrange them in order from 1850 to the present. Instead, ‘time’ refers to what may be called photographic lapse: the time which has passed between the moment of the conflict in question – whenever that may be – and the moment when the shutter release was pressed and the film exposed; the moment of documentation. From ‘seconds later’ – a gallery of shots taken of the mushroom cloud towering above Hiroshima – to months and years, the feeling is of a gradual transition along a continuum from one talent of photography to another; from photograph as action captivated or ‘snapped’, to photograph as a more static article of evidence.

If we are to talk of photography in a journalistic or political sense, then it is often the idea of the witness that is employed to justify the ethical worth of the practice. The photographer, increasingly embedded in conflict – acting, and, with often tragic consequences, being targeted as a combatant of sorts; their camera their weapon – sees his or her role as the communicator of violence to domestic publics, such that they cannot ignore it and are forced into political mobilisation. This ideal has, of course, been proven again and again to be sadly imperfect, and conditions such as ‘compassion fatigue’ – a phrase originating in the medical care profession – are frequently used to explain our failure to act. This, however, is an overly simplistic critique – David Campbell even refers to it as a ‘myth’. It cites the passing of time as sole factor in our degrading emotional attachment to global causes, when in fact time must always be weaved into a myriad network of geographies and technologies.

This exhibition consciously takes the photographic time-lapse as its anchor, and leaves both historical time and geography to be thrown about by it, skipping from one photo to the next between deserts and cities; the American mid-west and the Middle East; 19th and 21st century warfare. The strange mosaic brings together certain unexpected patterns and reactions. For example, it becomes clearly apparent that, in this heavily mediatised world – in which war in particular can only be viewed by western publics through the prism of the press – it is not historical time but photographic lapse which tends to shape our emotional process. Thus, most members of my family felt more affected by the Hiroshima mushroom cloud, taken in 1945, or Don Mcullin’s portrait of an American soldier’s shellshocked gaze immediately following the battle of Hue in Vietnam in 1968, than by Sophie Ristelhueber’s images of the potholed Afghan and Iraqi landscapes by U.S. bombs during the 1990s.

Toshio Fukada. The Mushroom Cloud – Less than Twenty Minutes after the Explosion (4). 1945.

Don McCullin. Shell Shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue, 1968.

Sophie Ristelhueber. Fait #9. 1992.

This suggests that, as we look at the photograph, we enter its time, and therefore it matters whether the victims portrayed have, in this moment – not our moment, but the moment of exposure – escaped or been evacuated. The image of the American soldier in Vietnam is powerful because he remains, as far as we can tell, a victim held in the horror of battle. For Hiroshima, we enter into those atomic clouds, and position ourselves as victims obscured but present. Conversely, the craters left by bombs in fields leave it ambiguous as to if there is any perpetrator here, and therefore if there is any victim. It is rare that a landscape with which we are familiar – one of our fields or cities – would remain long enough in such a damaged state to be photographed. It is either built anew, memorialised (think of ‘Ground Zero’), or else (if it remains untouched) we begin to think of it as natural, beautiful even, and both perpetrator and victim seem to vanish. The blotches appear with a mystic quality: like something from another world, crop circles perhaps. What they do not appear to be is, precisely, violent.

While Ristelhueber’s landscapes are, alone, troubling, this is exactly their point. She draws attention first to the way in which we habitually view these sorts of markings, and then she disturbs the non-violence with the insertion of works that depict markings much more familiar to us – the undeniable violence of human scarring. Throughout the exhibition in fact, Ristelhueber’s work interacts with that of others. In particular, Shomei Tomatsu’s images of the scarring incurred by the Nagasaki bomb suddenly awaken one to the fact that, when human skin is concerned, violence almost always leaves its mark – an indelible mark in spite of time, and a mark that exerts great power on those who view it.

Sophie Ristelhueber. Fait #17. 1992

Shomei Tomatsu. Skin of the Nation. 1962.

The point of Ristelhueber’s work, only clearly visible when we look at her whole portfolio, is thus for me to point to the way in which these two phenomena – marks of violence on the landscape and marks of violence on the body – are not currently, but must in time be, regarded as similar. To see them both as ‘scars’ (as Ristelhueber refers to them) is vitally important particularly given contemporary warfare’s tendency to obliterate bodies. While we must attempt to reinstate the identity of those killed, for example by drone strikes (as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism is currently doing), there is an additional task: we must try to view landscapes – particularly rural ones – as sites which scar. This means especially resisting the temptation to naturalise the craters, the burnt-out buildings and the rubble as conditions or diseases belonging to the land (and its population) itself. Rather, it is necessary to ask, when we see these images of land, the same questions as if we came face to face with that victim of Nagasaki. Namely, what happened to you? Who or what did this to you? And why?

Sophie Ristelhueber. Fait #29. 1992.

Sophie Ristelhueber. Every One #14. 1994.

Reading List: Mengele’s Skull – The Advent of Forensic Aesthetics. Thomas Keenan & Eyal Weizman (2012), Sternberg Press

I am writing about this book now first of all because I love it, and second of all because I have lost it. Or rather, I attended a book-swap and, in a fit of foolish generosity, gave it away.

It is shorter and far more beautiful than you would ever believe that a book essentially about court processes could ever be.

Beginning from the case of Joseph Mengele, the Nazi leader whom was captured and trialed only posthumously, the authors work towards the hypothesis that dead bodies and other objects (including damaged buildings) have been increasingly utilised in courtrooms over the last few decades. Though often inserted, as objective, passive props for the proofs of scientific experts, Keenan & Weizman declare a more hopeful and open-minded trend towards viewing these things as occupying an uncertain identity between objective truth or evidence on the one hand, and the speaking testimony of a witness on the other.

In this sense, they envision a way of re-making a space of interpretation and performance for the law, thus ungrounding the technocratic, non-political, unbiased portrayal it is sometimes given. The law is, after all, about persuasion, and even objects; dead bodies; concrete structures, can persuade, negotiate, and lie.

This book, as well as having a great theoretical relevance to arguments of legal accountability which surround drone warfare as well as numerous other issues, is also directly relevant to current practice. For one, Eyal Weizman, as head of the organisation ‘Forensic Architecture’ at Goldsmiths University of London, is heavily involved in an ongoing UN inquiry into civilian casualties caused by drones.

 

Response to Derek Gregory Roundtable: Distance and the Myth of Drone Pilot Detachment

In his roundtable at the Centre for Research Architecture, Derek Gregory[i] makes two important points which I would like to pick up on. First, he asserts (as have others elsewhere), that the idea of the operation of military drones as a ‘joystick’ or ‘playstation war’ is false. He realises wisely that the material distance from battlefield to drone pilot[ii] does not necessarily equate to emotional distance. In fact, as he suggests, it is possible that drone pilots are in fact closer, in emotional terms, than the bomber pilots of WWII were to their targets. Both pre-assassination, in which time the drone pilot may follow their target for days, possibly even weeks, and post-assassination, when the pilot must carry out a ‘Bomb Damage Assessment’, they see, in graphic detail, the damage they inflict. The consequences of this visual clarity, together with the fact that drone pilots do not benefit from the camaraderie of regular soldiers – this is a 9-5 job and, at the end of the day, they must go home to partner and children, and repress all they have seen and done in the preceding hours – are evident in the high records of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suffered by drone pilots[iii].

Secondly, Gregory argues that where more attention should perhaps be paid – rather than to the distance between pilot and victim – is to the notion of spectatorship: the way in which we in the West now always view war from afar, and via multiple layers of mediation.

What Gregory has, at least to my knowledge, not yet explored fully is the link between these two very valid points.

Put another way, what has not been answered is why it is vital that we do not perpetuate the myth that drone pilots are emotionally unattached, indifferent to their acts of violence. Of course, a pilot would say that it is vital because such a myth denigrates the work and character of drone pilots, creating the idea that they somehow ‘have it easy’. This pilot’s say would be true and legitimate.

However, I would argue that, for those of us who wish to bring greater accountability to the use of drones, the myth brings its own danger. Simply, it is that to pin the moral corruption of drone warfare on these individual pilots, and on the pure technical means by which they operate with the technology, takes aim, as it were, at the wrong target; at the wrong space.

According to the myth, the distance; the separation is located between the pilot and the people whom they watch and bomb; between the pilot’s virtuality and the victim’s violent reality. But what the accusations, using this myth as ammunition, inadvertently facilitate is the creation of another separation somewhere else. This separation – the more real and more dangerous one – occurs further back along the so-called ‘kill chain’, between the public on the one side, and the pilot (or the wider military establishment) and the victim – war as a whole – on the other. In arguing that drone pilots do not experience the horrors of war inflicted upon the victim, it is us who fail to comprehend the horrors of war experienced by both the victim of violence and the pilot whom inflicts it.

The link between Gregory’s points is thus established: Gregory’s first request, that we draw attention away from the distance between pilot and victim, is vital because focussing on this distance distracts us from Gregory’s second point, the distance between war and its western or global spectators.

To do this, to accomplish this epistemological shift from one space to another, is difficult not least because it requires the fighting of a temptation. The temptation is a temptation towards blissful ignorance; that is, our own blissful ignorance which our accusations of the blissful ignorance of the pilots has until now facilitated. While we claim, via the sphere of the media, that the pilots are ignorant of violence, we can appear to ourselves as knowledgeable of it, but, once we admit that the pilots are more knowledgeable than they first appeared, our own ignorance must be painfully confronted. Let me be clear about this ignorance: it is not the ignorance of violence or war itself; it is rather the ignorance of the fact that it is we who have the power and, more so, the responsibility, to change the situation. We appeal to the drone pilots to stop doing what they are doing, when we should be appealing to ourselves.

A caveat must be added here: that our ignorance, as facilitated by the myth of the pilot’s ignorance, in turn facilitates the ignorance of our politicians. It is they who, after all, make the decisions, and, until we are more obvious in our knowledge of our own guilt, they will live by our ignorance as we do. Both we and they have a moral conscience (though some of theirs may at times be very questionable), but, ultimately, if we do not make our objections explicit to them, then it gives their consciences the ultimate let-off. For me, our politicians’ seeming lack of morality on this and other issues derives from the fact that they come to be dependent on the democratic system for it. They survive by a democratic delusion in which, they say to themselves, “if I am immoral, then they will tell me with their votes”. And yet, the trouble with this is that all politicians seem to be reassuring themselves with the same whispers, leaving the voting public with little option, little power to vote for morality. This is why it falls to us to live politics outside of the political establishment; to give ourselves the options we have the responsibility to choose.

Putting the truth of the pilot’s experience aside then, it is regardless this space – a space of self-imposed public ignorance – which matters most in practical terms because, unlike that between the pilot and the victim, the space between public and victim carries at least the potential for influencing decision-making via politics. What I mean here is that the drone pilot, whether emotionally attached or not, will likely continue to bomb on the command of superiors. If they are not attached, as the myth goes, then they will bomb indifferently, and if they are, they will likely continue to bomb according to the justification and pride of a regular soldier, that theirs is a suffering necessary for the protection of the nation. This is not to say that the drone pilot is merely a passive cog in the machine, but they are nonetheless immersed in a system, an assemblage – or what is known in the US as a ‘kill chain’ – far larger than themselves. Their agency in this situation is to some extent restricted.

It is we who, being on the outside of the ‘kill chain’, have the agency, the choice of whether to become part of it or not.


Notes & References:

[i] Gregory, D. (2011). ‘The Everywhere War: PhD Roundtable with Derek Gregory’. Hosted by Eyal Weizman at The Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London. 10.11.2011. Available at: http://www.forensic-architecture.org/seminar/everywhere-war/.

Derek Gregory is author of The Colonial Present (2004), and a forthcoming book on the historico-geographical evolution of military aircraft (including drones) called Killing Space. See also his blog: http://geographicalimaginations.com/

[ii] The fact that drone pilots operate their aircraft from great distances, for instance from Creech Airbase in Nevada, is oft-used as an insult towards them, leading to their labelling as ‘warrior geeks’.

[iii] See Benjamin, M. (2013). Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. London & New York: Verso.