November 17, 2012:
There are growing protests against the use of UAVs to hunt down and kill Islamic terrorists. Aside from the fact that these aircraft allow terrorists to be more quickly found, and killed with less risk to civilians, this method is often seen as, well, dishonorable. This is an ancient quirk.
In many cultures slingers and bowmen are considered less honorable than men armed with swords and spears, for these guys get up close to do the killing. Slingers and bowmen slink around on the periphery, taking shots at the more honorable warriors. The ancient Romans earned the same disdain for their heavy use of large devices that could throw large rocks or bolts long distances. These were meant mainly for sieges but would be used during pitched battles as well. The enemy, who usually lost, considered this use of long distance weapons unmanly. This continued to World War II, where the Germans considered the American heavy use of artillery to be well, less than honorable, cheating almost.
While it was the Germans who began the use of bombing cities from the air as far back as World War I, they were indignant when the U.S. and Britain did it to German cities later in World War II. But back in World War II, allied civilians, seeing German troops advancing everywhere, thought bombing German cities was a case of too much ain’t enough. Attitudes, not surprisingly, change over time. What seemed reasonable during World War II is now considered by many as reprehensible. The few surviving veterans of World War II can only remark that “you had to be there” and be ignored.
It’s the same with UAV tactics. Despite the greater efficiency in putting mass murderers out of action, and at less risk to innocent bystanders, the fact that the people pulling the trigger are not at any risk is for many, somehow wrong.