The musings of Mr Monkeysized

If this is a computer game… by monkeysized
March 18, 2010, 16:58
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…then I’m not Mr Monkeysized.

It’s one thing to call it war-by-video-game, but this feels more like the weapons control room of a ship.

The excellent Der Spiegel series on drones put me onto the video. Astonishing stuff, and a vital part of trying to work out the morality of the whole business.

Of Reapers, Predators and excellent journalism by monkeysized
March 18, 2010, 14:06
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The excellent journalism of which I speak is in Der Spiegel, and this is a continuation of yesterday’s post about Drones and un-monkeysized warfare. This one is about another part of the same set of reports into unmanned drones. Yesterday I referenced the bit from an expert at Brookings – today we hear from the ‘pilot’ himself – in itself an excellent bit of monkeysized journalism. Here is Bryan Callahan:

Killing someone with an RPA is not different than with an F-15. It’s easy to think that, to fall down that trap. We’re well aware that if you push that button somebody can go away. It’s not a video game. You take it very seriously. It’s by far nowhere near a video game.

Well this supports what I wrote yesterday, that the business of war had already moved a long way from twatting someone over the head with a rock. From Slingshot to matchlock to B52, this dislocation was already there, and waiting for us to get used to it or not. Far better, I suggested, to deal with death in a way that made us more aware of what it actually involved – such as having to kill an animal if we wanted to eat meat. This isn’t so different from Ancient Rome, where they gained insights into the reality of death by watching gladiators battle to the death in the sand in front of them (not an option in most bits of England in 2010).

Mrs Monkeysized disagreed. But then she hates the idea of killing rabbits, and has much more of an instinctive dislike of war than me. She also mentioned that she can’t work out whether I am in favour or against monkeysizing. Hmm again.

Monkeysizing the art of twatting someone with a rock by monkeysized

What happens when war becomes even less monkeysized? There’s an evident worry that moving from shooting up the enemy or flying over them and trying to drop a bomb on their head, to piloting a drone from a computer, might be a touch too far. This excerpt is from an excellent interview in Der Spiegel with PW Singer from the Brookings Institution

The act of going to war used to entail you taking upon great risks. You might not come home one day. You might not see your family again. Now it’s different. I heard a drone pilot explain it this way: You’re going to war for one hour, and then you get in the car and drive home, and within two minutes you’re sitting at the dinner table talking about your kids’ homework. This is a very different experience of war.

The argument is basically that things have gone too far, that by dehumanising the war experience you risk more of it without the attendant horror that keeps it in perspective. I have some sympathy for this as I am, after all, Mr Monkeysized. But then I was recently listening to three and a half hours of podcasts from Dan Carlin about the Punic Wars, and in particular the battle of Cannae. Now that was visceral – especially when Dan described some of the dozens of thousands of trapped Romans awaiting death digging holes and sticking their heads in them in the hope of suffocation rather than being chopped up by Carthaginians.

No doubt the smart-alecs who invented the bow and arrow, or the cannon, or the slingshot, or the musket, or the howitzer, or the dog-with-a-bomb-strapped-to-it, or the Avro Lancaster, or the ICBM could all be accused of the same, taking the up-close nastiness of war away from the much more primeval and monkeysized twatting someone on the head with a large rock.


My view is that war is a distinct case that does not lend itself to criticisms of being unmonkeysized. Far better, in my view, to remind oneself of the visceral nature of life and death by forcing people to kill and prepare an animal (rabbits etc…) before being allowed to eat meat. That’s where the real disconnect takes place, not in a drone attack somewhere near the Durand Line.