22 November 2014
By Edward Tick
Truthout.org

Many changes and transformations are occurring that introduce new challenges into military service and new costs and consequences to those who serve.

Service in the US military is being reshaped into the profession of arms. This means that fewer people are serving and more is being asked of them. We know that their trauma is more severe due, among other factors, to multiple deployments, the extent of civilian casualties and the despair of unending global war. We must also awaken to the technological changes in military practice and their impact foisted upon those who serve.

Though stationed far behind the front lines, drone operators are among those on the front lines of these changes. These are the women and men who sit at electronic consoles stateside and operate unmanned drones from safe havens in the United States to monitor, spy on, attack and slay antagonists on the far side of the planet. They must sit at the controls during their entire workday, perform difficult assessments and technical operations, and when ordered, kill without being in danger themselves. After all that, they go home to dinner. President Obama has used drones extensively during his tenure. The Air Force refers to drone operators as “21st century warriors.”

Political public relations make much of the fact that these people are not “in harm’s way.” No “boots on the ground,” so they are supposedly safe. But US drone operators are reported to have severe difficulties in their service, are in deep pain and break down with post-traumatic stress disorder to significant degrees. I can attest to this from my direct therapeutic and educational work with our military over the last several years. Though physically not in danger, they are not safe and are in harm’s way. The damage is to their psychological, social, professional and spiritual well-being and to the well-being of their families.

Why? There are numerous ways our creation and use of 21st century warriors redefines the entire tradition of warriorhood and in fact renders them more vulnerable to harm from the invisible wounds of war.

The traditional warrior’s contract is to meet armed enemy combatants in fair face-to-face battle. They agree to enter the kill-or-be-killed situation. Modern combatants testify that though killing hurts, it hurts the least and does the least long-term harm when it occurs in the context of a fair fight. When the fight is unfair or unequal, when civilians are caught in the crossfire, when extreme “collateral damage” is caused to get the target, there is inevitably more trauma.

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