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tv   After Words Lt. Col. Wayne Phelps Ret. On Killing Remotely - The...  CSPAN  July 25, 2021 9:59pm-11:01pm EDT

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>> drones are used more and more as weapons in combat . next on "after words", retired marine lieutenant colonel wayne phelps looks at the impact of drones in combat and their effect on military units operating them remotely. he's interviewed by author, cornell university professor and former us air force officer sarah friends. "after words"'s weekly interview program with relevant guests was interviewing nonfiction authors about their latest work .
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>> is great to have you here to talk about your on kelly. this is a well-written book. it canvases everything from the history of warfare to the laws of wars, operator psychology about drones. so let us talk a little bit about the book and i want to hear from you about many different aspects of that. maybe the place to start is why did you decide to write this book on drones ? >> i'm excited to talk to you about this today. i was inspired to write this based off of my last job in the marine corps. i was commanding officer of a drones water and in hawaii for 2 years. during that period i sent for groups of marines overseas to fight in a contingency against the violent extremist
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organization. and during that time we contributed to over 100 strokes on the enemy fighters and it got me thinking how this kind of work impacts the operators that are doing these kinds of operations remotely. then i started researching and expanding that into armed remotely piloted aircraft or drones as we commonly know them . >> there have been a lot of books written on drones but i haven't come across any that have the perspective that yours does seems one of the big takeaways from it is the emphasis on how people who fly and operate the drones, how they respond to that interaction to find themselves, the drones and the targets. so that seems to be really a
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novel perspective and it sounds like you come about this from really a kind of first-hand perspective of having interacted with that community. but you start off i think a really nice way by walking through kind of the early history of standoff weapons. so it's a really interesting genealogy tells an effective story that the interests and motivations of waiting hand to hand combat and generating advantages is far from new. i wonder if you could talk about that chapter where you go through kind of that history. where we think about where we are today with drones and some people research that as revolutionary. it seems what you're trying to paint is a picture that this is much more kind of an evolution of something that has been going on for
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centuries, really. >> i think it's our natural tendency to develop weapons systems that allow us to fight from further and further distance. it keeps the employers of those weapons systems removed from harm's way, from possible wealth while still being effective. and i started off that chapter by looking at weapons were employed at distance going back to thinking about throwing a rock. to hit somebody and evolving it over the history of fighting, really so you get into a longbow and the arrow and how that was initially wasn't well received, it was viewed as a presence weapon and the code of honor in fighting like a night at the time was the way it's
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perceived to fight with honor so when you introduce something that puts somebody further from harm's way it was, wasn't well received and then you start seeing things like the introduction of gunpowder and rifles and your fighting from further further removed from the situation. all the way up through world war ii where you've got v1 and the two rockets fired by the germans, the british. the introduction of satellite communications and gps and a global positioning system that allow us to expand that and when you get into position guided munitions such as tps guided bombs and laser guided munitions. and then really we see armed
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drones as kind of the culmination of all that. where you have all these technologies coming to play on one system that's fully integrated that allows us to fly an aircraft on the other side of the planet and conduct a tactical strike on a target. so you've got satellite communications. gps guided laser guided munitions. and then you got this persistent platform that can fly or sometimes upwards of a day send video back to the operators that are seeing this in near real-time 1.8 seconds of latency of what's happening on the other side of the world so i really wanted to demonstrate that fighting in this matter is a progression. it's an evolution. it's not anything new, this has always been kind of the
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way that we have trended. >> i think that makes a lot of sense. i was curious by with this expression that you use in the book. the on the chivalrous presence weapon. so in some ways, this, that's sort of the long though you were associating with that. with that phrase area and so i guess i wonder through this kind of theory of transitivity, the longbow. we have this evolution that your drawing betweenwhere we are now there . you describe that as kind as an chivalrous presence weapon . would you say that's what the drone is? are you suggesting that others kind of label it that in fact this is kind of a reasonable approach to take in a combat setting, to kind
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of minimize one's own casualties and be kind of as removed from it as possible. >> guest: there's twolines of thought . there's one that thinks it's absolutely an chivalrous way to find where there's no skin in the game. you're not risking anything in the other line of thought is that it provides a tactical advantage for those that are employing it so that's kind of the ultimate goal of fighting is to be able to attack your enemies where and when you can while removing your friendly forces from harm's way. >> that makes a lot of sense. as i said at the outset, a big focus of the book is on kind of the psychology of this experience of being the
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drone operator. and so i wonder if you could talk a little bit about what that experience is like and what makes that kind of unusual compared to let's say that the one or the longbow. from the perspective of a person who has kind of initiated this form of force. >> we've been employing armed drones for about 20 years now. so we got almost two decades of fighting in this manner. and what most people experience and what my experience was in the marine corps was that when i thought in conflicts was that i would physically deploy to that location. i would conduct the fighting in that manner and i would be away from my family for 6 to 8 months at the time.
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there would be a mental transition in the beginning of that where mentally i prepare myself to go into harm's way.i would deploy with another group of marines . we would be there together and we've experienced this hardship together and then we would mentally prepare to transition back to home life in the united states. so one of the biggest changes that we've seen with the employment of armed drones is that mental transition occurs on almost a daily basis. there particularly within the air force where their firing remotely piloted aircraft and say at street space in las vegas so that mental transition occurs when you wake up at your house in the morning and then you drive to work or you basically commute to combat as you fly a combat sortie or a combat mission on the other side ofthe planet .
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you might have a strike during that period of time and then you're mentally transitioning yourself to return home at the end ofthe day . so one of the people i interviewed talked about this strange feeling that they often referred to as deployed in garrison where you're conducting combat operations from home and you're doing these transitions on a daily basis. sometimes looking 12, 14 hour shifts several days a week so you have these strange, strange period's of work where you're mentally deployed and you're physically still in the united states and you may have conducted a strike at some period during your mission and then you may be
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home in time for dinner with your family or seeing a soccer game or picking up milk from the store or something like that . so it's unlike anything most traditional warriors have ever experienced in thepast . i think that's the biggest change in the psychology of how these warriors are actually fighting. >> it seems like there are pros and cons like everything in life, there are trade-offs . when i was in the air force came in in the late 90s and that was after i was in the midst of operation southern watch northern watch and these operators were sober because they go into deployed a year at a time and they miss their wives anniversary
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thatwasn't necessarily a good thing either . it seems like the ability to go home and celebrate your five-year-old birthday is a plus. so is this a bad thing or is this just kind of an adjustment of psychology. i was thinking as you were talking about that about the lack of boundaries that in some ways it's not quite analogous. that now we've all been working from home during the pandemic. so no one really, the boundaries between your work and your kids school, everything else. maybe you hear the dog barking here in thebackground . that's all very, it is somewhat analogous. i'm not in my day-to-day now going and operating or conducting a war across the world i wonder where that's just the 21st century and rather than lament that we don't have these boundaries
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we just kind of a just to this world. >> i think we're adjusting. i think there are better methods that we could use to this new way of fighting. one example is shiftwork. so a lot of the air force squadrons conduct rotating shifts. so rather than being on day shift or 12 hours work for your entire tour, you will shift between day shift and mid shift or night shift. so you're doing that fairly routinely. some are doing it every six weeks or so. so that's causing your circadian rhythm to completely be in disarray. so you have this constant feeling of jet lag almost . it takes quite a long time for your circadian rhythm to adjust rumbling today shift tonight shift. doing it every six weeks is
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really i don't think is ideal . i'm trying to think of another occupation that does this, goes into harm's way. >> i was thinking about the case of the medical community where you have so my brothers a doctor and he will work nights for a couple of months and then shift today's. and his, it is also a matter of life and death. there have been some questions in the medical community that would say the residents are working too many hours for there doesn't seem to be any sense that we should kind of shift from i mean, it's almost a reality. that's where i hold so was thinking about this comparison with hospitals is that you can't not serve people between 11 and seven because people can't control when they have a heart attack
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or control when they're going to have a baby and you can't control when there's a high-value asset that's going to pop up in the tribal areas of pakistan so isn't it just released exigencies of life that may just kind of demand more from certain professions. >> i think you're right. i also think there's only a better way to tackle that problem at least within the drone community or maybe you extend the time longer than six weeks so someone can adjust. and that's one of the things i think i recommended in the book was that you basis off of seniority kind of like law enforcement officers to where they if you've been there longer you get the bid on which shift you want to be on . i think the constant switching back and forth is fairly harmful for sleep and then when you're trying to sleep in the daytime and your
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family's home, there's going to be natural interruptions as well . but law enforcement, medical professionals that do shiftwork, i think that's a fairly good comparison. >> one of the things i was thinking about as i was reading the book is that why i think this book is such a contribution is that so much of the early work on drones was about again, these legal questions and the effectiveness questions and whether it was creating backlash. kind of martyrdom affect of reading more terrorists than they were killing. there was a list kind of conjecture if it was discussed at all about the effects of these operations on those who were operating these drones. and one of the things as
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often happens with technology, the technology gets out there and then we kind of study the consequences of it later and in this case there was a sense that well, these operators are shielded from all of these kind of psychological impacts of war. infantry at a much harder time with it because there much closer proximity but i think what you do a really effective job of doing is showing just kind of that this isn't, i don't think you're trying to compare and say that these operators is as as an infantry person. but just say look, this isn't antiseptic for them. they are experiencing these costs in ways that i think words known when this technology started being employed. and you do a lot of good interviews and i wonder if you could talk about some of the kind of sentiment that you've collected as part of these interviews and how you
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did your interviews. >> absolutely. i think initially when we started employing drones in this matter, the sentiment was there's no way that somebody can be experiencing any sort of traumatic events or things like that because they're not physically going into harm's way . there's no reason why anyone should complain about doing this kind of work because their life is not at risk. and there was little to no empathy for those initially said eight, i'm struggling with this. i'm having a hard time or i've experienced something traumatic that happened. i think over time that's shifted. there have been several studies in the air force by a psychologist whose looked at
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problems of ptsd in drone pilots and the intelligence community that's supporting these operations and initially 2014 came out that there was a prevalence of ptsd roughly around four percent within the community. those who studied. that kind of led to this introduction of these human performance teams that were embedded within air force squadrons and human performance teams are kind of like mental health professional doctors, counselors, chaplain, things like that that had a clearance that could talk about the mission in detail and the events that occurred with a lot of these pilots. two years later there was another study and the rate of ptsd went up to six percent.
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and you're right sarah, i'm not trying to compare the work that people are doing remotely to the work that is required to deploy into harm's way whether your infantry or your manning a fighter aircraft or an attack helicopter. it'snot an apples to apples comparison in my mind . as i say in the book is not a suffering competition. what i'm trying to bring to light is this everyone has this specific occupation within the military and i think it's important that we recognize the challenges that these folks go through in this occupation. one so i did and i an anonymous survey of 254 people, 243 of which had actually used a drone for a strike for the houston drones call in a strike for something else but the key thing was that they had to feel responsible and
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accountable for the fx that happened during an operation. then i conducted over 50 first-person interviews with evil within the community as well so qualitative and quantitative research to get an understanding and hear some of the things, the challenges that they go through. the interviews really brought to light some of the things that didn't get out of the surveys suggest that physiological response that happens during a strike. and i found that to be fascinating. so several studies that talk about several books that talk about the physiological responses to lethal force encounters that are face-to-face. whether it's law-enforcement or military. they're going to have an increased heart rate, you know, perhaps sweaty palms. auditory exclusions. a tunnel vision. things like that. so it makes sense that happens whenyou're in a fight
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for your life . when somebody is physically trying to kill you, that makes sense your bodywill respond in that way . i also heard from a lot of sensor operators, drone pilots, things like that they had similar responses in the situations leading up to a strike. which seems counterintuitive. it's completely removed from harm's way, i would experience something like that. sweaty palms, adrenaline spikes . auditory exclusions, time distortion, all those kinds of things will happen. and what the reason i think that it happens is because the cognitive distance. as opposed to the physical distance. cognitively they feel as if they're there. they feel like they're in the fight and several of them told me they were mentally deployed during those
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missions. so i think that physiological response is interesting as well. >> talked about cognitive dissonance distance but i was thinking about cognitive dissonance because on the one hand, the sweaty palms, the adrenaline rush but one of the passages that caught my attention was where so you know, the surveillance part of this mission. you may be watching someone for weeks at a time. and you can't as you we were saying you can't you won't know whether this strike. you can't time when they're going to come out of their hiding. and pop up and the visible and that the strike is going to happen . so there was a passage where i talked about the person who has surveilled this target
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for weeks and then they weren't on the shift when the actual strike took place and kind of that side of things. that surprised me in a way. >> i interviewed one sensor operator who was conducting a mission where basically he had the same high value individual or hbi that he was watching routinely, day in and day out waiting for the right moment or the right time to strike this target when it could mitigate or eliminate any sort of collateral damage or civilian casualties so there waiting for these, the right time to strike the target. that's something that this new capability gives us his tactical patience and there was a lot of discussions about civilian casualties that occur with drones but what we don't talk about a lot is the fact that this
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thing can fly for hours on end. it's got a high definition camera that allows you to see and pick the right point and you have this entire team of intelligence falls and lawyers and everybody else on the backside that can watch the video as well and provide input for when the time is right to strike the target so this sensor operator i interviewed had been conducting what we call a pattern of life mission. he was trying to determine a pattern of life of this target to figure out the right time to strike this target . and he said he knew more about this individual to probably his roommate. he could pick this individual out in a crowd based on his gait, his hand gestures, just his normal human behavior he could pick them out. and he developed almost this one sided intimacy with this
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target. he was off on a routine day and when he came back to work someone else had struck that target. and he had this sense of almost lost like that was his target to strike. he been working onit . and it was like us sense word but there was no closure for him . but that was fairly common amongst people that i talked to was they had a sense of ownership and accountability with these individuals that they were watching. that doesn't always work well for them obviously. there's times when i talked to another individual who had been working at target for almost 2 years. and he saw that the daily intimate human details of this individual who was a father, he would see him playing with his kids in the backyard, picking him up from school. mixed in with some nefarious
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activities that was why he was a target in the first place and he saidwhat he eventually did get the authorization to strike , it was difficult for him cause he knew that guy was a good father. and the individual being a father himself could relate to that. he could see the humanity of that target. >> sounds a little like i don't know if it's an expression but the reverse of stockholm syndrome where a captive kind of games a sense of empathy for the captor. and here is kind of the reverse. you come to see even amidst this nefarious nest these are ultimately real people. these are fathers, these are people living not that the similarly from how we are. >> there's paper written called avengers in wrath by
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karen house and dave lever was an air force rpa pilot. and in the article they refer to that as cognitive combat intimacy. in the book i just referred to as intimacy withthe target . developing this one sided intimacy with this target. i don't think it's dissimilar to feelings that people have when they watch a tv show they feel like they know ross or rachel from friends. because you're watching these people for a long time. >> one of the things that i was wondering, i don't know if you've been asked this before but i often have been asked about the convergence between kind of what actually happens the perspective of the operator and the pilot
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versus the movie i and the sky so did you happen to see that movie ? >> is that the one with ethan hawke and mark. >> host: i was going to say judi dench. >> guest: i don't think i've seen that movie. >> host: it's this kind of us, uk joint operation or allied operation and they are watching, they see the suicide bomber put on his best. and it's some of this the reason why i think that people ask me this don't always know how much is real and how much isn't but there's this opening vignette and this kind of man nano drone flies in the window to conduct video surveillance. they see this guy put on his surveillance or his suicide vest. just to kind of eliminate thatquestion of is he a bad guy or not and we all see is
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. and then it's what you were describing. so this drone tracks this guy every day or weeks. and then there's this point in the movie where they have a clear target. this guy is unassisted,he's by himself . and the rental in this is that at the last minute, this cute little girl who's selling bread goes up within proximity of him to the point where you know that any strike is also going to kill her. and there's this debate behind the scenes between the and among the operators about what do we do ? like, this they had bought, there's a part of the scenario because someone in the movie had gone to basically pay her for the
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entire day of bread and just go home and she didn't know why of course. but these debates behind the scenes about why do we think about these wrinkles and it's these questions of who's deciding, who's empowered to make these decisions. what are these decision-making conversations actually look like . >> that's such a great question. i definitely talk about this in the book. that drones are usually acting on behalf of someone else. someone is requesting a target to be struck or their being cast with striking a target. and they ultimately have the authority to say no, i'm not going to strike that target for a pilot in command of the mission does but in 99 percent of the incidences someone is requesting that a strike a target on behalf of a ground force commander or somebody that's declared a
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individual as a high-value individual. >> abutaleb. >> -- depending on how important a high-value individual is, the decision authority can go all the way up to the commander-in-chief sometimes. president obama was in office, he authorized a lot of those strikes personally. so that decision is made by
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somebody else. it's not made by the drone crew. they will accept a certain level of collateral damage but they are often not the ones that are striking the target. so imagine you're a pilot or an operator in that specific situation you're talking about, this high-value individual, a little girl sipping casually that could potentially occur. someone come back and says yes, we authorized a strike. now you're putting this position were someone has said we will accept responsibility and injected carryout the deed. so you're left with this, you do your job or do you deny that strike. there's some instances, interviews i had where people actually refused to strike specific targets, whether it was because it was a u.s. citizen or
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because there was a known civilian casually that would occur. and there's some ways, some crafty ways they can do that. they can say i'm sorry, i'm out of fuel or on out-of-court did for the can just flat out refused and say no. there's also -- out of court nets. there some instance of what to do strike the target and that's one of the three things i've determined was likely to cause some sort of a traumatic experience for the operators. like there's three. conducting a pattern of life nation on the target for a long time, developing intimacy with that target, and eventually striking that individual. watching friendly's on the ground, from the forces being wounded or killed in action and not having or not being able to prevent that from happening. i think there's a connection with friendly forces on the ground as well despite the physical distance.
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and the third thing was in incident where civilian cap casualties occur. those are the three missions specific exams were people told me they had the hardest time of dealing with that, whether was a short-term or long-term. those of the incidence that are most likely produce some sort of traumatic experience in response to killing or long-term that would lead to ptsd. >> host: in a lot of ways that raises questions about kind of, this gets back to kind of your evolution. one of the next steps people talk about in the evolution of drones is autonomous of drones. right now they are semi-autonomous in the sense they are programmed to fly a particular pattern but they're still a human in the loop when it comes to conducting lethal
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force. the u.s. has said that is something it will continue to do because some of these decisions are really kind of hard to program into an algorithm. i was curious kind of where you would stand on that based on kind of your work and your thinking. this kind of question about whether to move to a fully autonomous drone. >> guest: yes. so i was fully aware that the book might lead to somewhat have an illogical conclusion that she was are suffering from doing this work so let's remove the human from the decision-making process and that will eliminate these problems humans are having. i do not support that at all. i think war is a human endeavor,
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and as you has to make the decision to kill another human. i think it's a slippery slope we can go down to have a lethal autonomous weapon that senses be an be in pharma, makes the determination all on its own through algorithms to say yes, that's a legitimate target, and then carries out that strike without any sort of meaningful human input in that entire process. i also think that we are not just as in the u.s. but i think across the world we're starting to see countries that don't necessarily feel that way and they are moving in that direction. the turkish drone strike in libya is under investigation, supposedly happened in 2020, is potentially the first noted lethal autonomous drone strike that occurred in history.
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we also got any regulations or international standards that prevent this from occurring right now. so i think there's a lot of work to be done on that, but my purpose behind this book was to show this is how humans respond to this, but i think it should always be difficult to kill another human. i don't think we should outsource that the algorithms and machines. >> host: it comes back to the scene in the movie where they are trying to kind of to figt this wrinkle of how do we think about the fact that now have this high-value outset, we have this girl and she's going to be killed, chief the collateral damage. there's one perspective in the movie that says if you were to do this on a piece of paper, on a ledge you come high-value
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asset here, person here, it would be clear what to do. so don't be so human about it, like, you are getting someone really high-value so this is consistent with the law of the war, the military value is in excess of the civilian damage incurred. but what's is so evocative about this vignette is that once you see this girl, and she could be anyone's sister or daughter or knees, and it really does humanize and it really does raise this conundrum, is a better form of war where you take the human perspective out and just kind of make it less personal? and so you answered that question, that there should always be a human endeavor. i think the reason why, as you
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say in the book, that drones do work for the dole, dirty and dangerous is we now are we got in a step in direction. if you suggest the russians proven the fully autonomous and direction, i was actually just looking, researching that case in libya and my editor said actually did not operate, can operate in manual mode or fully autonomous mode and it appears the little children stn some ways it's the perception that is what matters. if the perception was it was fully autonomous we could've gone a little further down the slippery slope but they are redundant. why are we playing with one hand tied behind our backs? >> guest: i think we run the risk of losing a competitive advantage because humans can't compete in the same decision-making cycle as quick as machines. are we going to allow ourselves
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to either, i think there's two situations. we either lose our civility or would lose the fight. neither one of those are great options. i still wholly advocate for humans being the ones that make these decisions because there's bias and programming, coding of algorithms. there's little details in missions that only a human would be able to sense. it's not one making decision. it's getting to a yes or no kill that there's a whole bunch of context that only humans can pick up on. >> host: right, right. that makes a lot of sense. i want to shift a little bit to question of how we think about conflict and some aspect of norms of law. one of the things you talk about is this question of sovereign
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airspace, and one of the things i've actually had conversation with people about is how would we, how do we even adjudicate this question of violations of sovereign airspace? we have a pakistani government case that they publicly do not want to acknowledge that there may have invited this strike because they have domestic political argument in favor of not having, not looking like they are green lighting u.s. military action. because the u.s. for so long was the most visible actor using lethal drone strikes, there were other countries that may have been kind of drawing inferences that were different from this perspective that it was lawful. i'm curious, what's different when there's an actual pilot and
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we saw this with gary powers in 1962, the pro and the con is that when he went down over any airspace, there was a huge diplomatic event, when a a dre gets shot down now there's no such kind of acrimony and escalation. and it seems that can kind of cut both ways in terms of, a gets not just a question of how do we understand sovereignty and whether this has been greenlighted and whether therefore it is consistent with the recourse but also gets to these questions of is it, does using drones because it's kind of, if the stone goes down over sovereign airspace, there's no prisoner of war that becomes and the big diplomatic event so there's less caution. you talk about those aspects in
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the book. i i wonder if you could elaborae on that here in terms of how does using drones changes the calculus of using force? >> guest: i think we are still figuring out how drones changed the risk calculation for both deploying them over sovereign airspace and what we do in response to it someone shoots down our own drones, right? i definitely argued about that i think drones, the common narrative seems to be it makes it easier for us to go to war with the drones. it's a low-risk option and, therefore, we are more likely to be involved in more conflicts because we have this weapons system. i argue that it don't think that's the case. i have talked about, when
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president obama left office we're connecting strikes, drone strikes in seven different countries -- conducting -- afghanistan, syria, yemen, niger, iraq, pakistan. in those seven countries only one of them where we only conducting drone strikes alone with no other use of military force, right? so it all of the other situations you have either and strikes that are occurring, special operations teams on the ground have the military forces that are being deployed. so if it were easier for us to just do it to the use of drones why would reach the point of assets in the situations? pakistan is an anomaly but you
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could do that as an extension of the war in afghanistan, too, where it's for safety. kind of had approval from pakistan to do that. if the wasn't approval of the prosocial opportunities for them to shut down our logistic supply chain that went through their to get to afghanistan if they dt agree with what we were doing. i don't think it makes this easier to get involved in conflicts from the beginning solely only through using drones. drones. i think it's a low-cost, nice option once we do decide to get involved in conflicts. similar to cruise missiles or airpower to begin with, provides an alternative having boots on the ground but also doesn't give us a great probability of success in some of the
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situations. the reasons why we get involved in a in a conflict to begin with, one of them is obviously probability of success. if we are fighting a traditiona traditional, major theater war, perhaps you would be able to use drone strikes a lot to achieve your objectives. if you're fighting a counterinsurgency where you need to influence the population, you're not going to be able to do that solely through drone strikes. on the flipside, when you talk about risk calculation of going to war over an asset being shot down, look at the global hawk in the middle east or what they took control and landed in their own country and still basically.
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in those situations, if there were a pilot on board of either one of those aircraft that would a change the risk oculus for the united states. we probably would've responded in a different manner in that situation. if you shoot down a manned aircraft over international waters and kill a pilot, there's probably sort of retaliatory strike or actions that occur. so in the situation i think it actually made us less likely get involved or escalate the situation. i think there's two sides of that coin we're still figuring it out. i don't think we have a solid solution on how to calculate risk it someone shoots are assets down at this point. >> host: looking ahead a little bit, and with just a little more than ten minutes, someone are to be a little forward-looking which may push us a a little beyond the scopf
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the book itself but maybe things people want to know having read your book. as you said drones are not always effective and they are not necessarily game changers and they're not causing conflict where they didn't exist otherwise. a good example actually of this was in pakistan itself where the government was fighting an insurgency and they've been doing this for years, and the introduction of chinese made it seemed, was a clear, chinese parts to were maybe indigenously assembled in what looks like a chinese drone was used a few years ago to shoot down and kill three insurgents. that was a war that was over happening so i think it is to your point that the drones didn't now suddenly cause pakistan to engage in conflict with these insurgents.
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but it does make me wonder, so we know from the data on drone proliferation that ten years ago, 20 years ago as you said, no country was using on the drones. u.s., israel and more countries have both been acquiring and using armed drones. why are they, if these don't matter why are they so popular? >> guest: i definitely think they matter. we just need to look at the conflict between and armenia to sequence into what the future of warfare is going to look like. it's so easy for countries these days to build an air force that's fairly effective at a lower cost and much significantly lower cost than what they've been able to do in the past. that was devastating -- turned
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into a lopsided conflict because of the deployment of armed drones, lowering munitions, things like that. as a lot of people taking note of that and looking at, do i need to invest millions and millions of dollars into a man air force or can i build a drone fleet and achieve the same objectives? i think that's probably the direction we will be heading in the future, at least for those countries that can afford that. >> host: connecting back to the question of sovereignty earlier, one of the real virtues of drones, this kind of gray zone context, is that there's some kind of plausible deniability, well, we are not fully engaging in conflict, we are kind to send in unmanned
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aircraft, so it's possible to kind of to engage in some kind of escalation without it becoming an out-of-control conflict, in some ways it speaks to make you what this calculation, the risk calculus and the eskimo tort prospects look like, which is that the conflict and exchanges happen, it can be more likely in some ways but also both sides may know the stakes are lower because fewer people are going to die. we also did see in the recent -- hamas is using drones and you mentioned libya. proliferation means in part the actors can overcome some of these disadvantages that they have in the lack of resources with now really increasingly affordable and capacious off-the-shelf drones.
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is there any way around that rex i mean, if the u.s. is faced with -- what's the recourse? >> guest: we have been faced with that for years, right? isis has been employing drones anorak and modified them to drop mortars and bombs and things like that. initially there was no counter or a lease the counter, the target, the weapon to target match was such an overmatched and you're not shooting at patriot missile at a $2000 dji drone. there's been a rise to develop counters that are similar to commercial off-the-shelf that can answer these situations. there's still drone strikes that are happening in iraq that are
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like group two, group three size, 1000-pound kind of drones flying for long distances, preprogrammed through gps and hitting specific targets. you can either follow the news, they are all over the place these days, whether airfields in irbil or close to the embassy in baghdad but that's the new threat, the new ied, the new ak-47, the new suicide vest. very attractive for nonstate actors because now they don't even have to risk as much to employ these things. they are commercially available. you can get an autopilot off the internet. you can completely turn it into a dark drone so it's not the meeting any sort of energy that can be disrupted. so you have basically the cruise
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missile, if there's little defense to that right now so we are playing catch up on the counter to this. >> host: right, this seems like when they're been issues of proliferation and arms control in the past it was involving kind of the u.s., u.s. authority, u.s.-russia. these are so accessible and actors that using them are not really part of our international governance structure. is there any sort of governance response to this, or is it just kind of an offense defense measure countermeasure now we're developing countermeasures they can try to address this threat? as you said it's very real. it's not a weapon of mass destruction but it's a weapon of destruction in the sense these drones can fly over typical kind
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of vehicle barriers, and less manufacturer has geo-fencing. so it is quite disruptive and it seems like there's not really an obvious kind of governance countermeasure and so is a really enhance a kind of the defense to figure out exactly what you are saying, appropriate defense for this? >> guest: i think it is. i mean, the kinds of governance that would lurk is not good to be effective against nonstate actors, gangs, criminals. they are being employed in mexico by cartels to attack police and attack other cartels. governance, that's not going to affect that, right? they are already commercially available. they can modify them to be deadly, those sort of arms
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control can affect that. arms control would be effective i think is when you start getting into larger systems that can launch precision guided munitions or missiles and stuff like that. even then, china is one of the largest exporters of drones similar to predators and they will not sign on to something like that. they have actually used our unwillingness to sell to some of these countries as an advantage to sell to them. they've got this market with the u.s. prior to pulling out wouldn't sell to these countries so china said we will fill that point and we will sell you in armed drone. >> host: well, wayne, i don't want to end on such an ominous note, but it strikes me as probably unrealistic note. so i think you really have done an incredible job in the
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research and writing of this book. everything we know i think is that drone truly on the future of war and so this is, this book on "on killing remotely" is a great resource, given all the rich interviews you've done in the way you have woven this into a really readable manuscript. so we really appreciate that you spent this time with us and i really recommend everyone pick up a a copy and read it. >> guest: thank thank you. really appreciate your time today. right questions. >> host: thanks, wayne. >> "after words" is available as a podcast. to listen visit or search c-span "after words" on your podcast app and watch this and all previous "after words" interviews at click the "after words" button near the top of the page. ♪ ♪ >> weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday american history
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tv documents america's stories and on sundays booktv brings you the latest in nonfiction books and authors. lending comes on these television companies and more including mediacom. >> the world changed in an instant but mediacom was ready. internet traffic soared and we never slow down. schools and businesses when virtual and we powered a new reality because at mediacom we are built to keep you ahead. >> mediacom, along with these television companies, supports c-span2 as a public service. >> you are watching booktv. next, harvard university assistant debate coach brandon fleming shows a literature by black writers helped transform his life. "washington post" journalist yasmine and damien paletta take an in-depth look at the trump administration handling of the covid-19 pandemic. later retired marine lieutenant
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colonel examines the impact of drones in combat and their affect on the military units operating them remotely. find more schedule information at or consult your program guide. now here's hard words brandon fleming. >> i am delighted to introduce our speakers. brandon fleming is the assistant coach of debate at harvard university and found of the nationally acclaimed harvard debate council diversity project. in 2020 he was recognized by forbes on their 30 and a 30 list and by the root as one of the root 100 most influential african-americans in 2020. nic stone was born and raised in atlanta, georgia, and only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. after graduating from spelman college to work extensively in teen mentoring and lived


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