Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer bonus articles: Drone pilots suffer

According to The Economist Drone Pilots suffer like other soldiers of war.

“People assume these pilots have been desensitised, like they’re playing a video game,” says Nancy Cooke, a professor at Arizona State University who has studied the cognitive effect of remote warfare. “The opposite is true.” Drone pilots experience mental-health problems at the same rate as fighter pilots deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a 2013 study by researchers for the Pentagon.

So why the mental health problems.

Whereas fighter pilots drop a bomb and fly away, drone pilots may spend weeks monitoring a village or convoy, sussing out patterns and getting to know their enemies. This odd intimacy makes the act of killing more personal, particularly as these pilots are forced to witness the fallout. Afterwards, instead of bonding with fellow servicemen at a base, drone warriors go home, where they must keep their daily exploits a secret. Unsurprisingly, the air force has trouble attracting and keeping drone pilots, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an official watchdog. In December 2013 it had only 85% of the number it needed, which puts pressure on serving pilots. Many complain of long hours (nearly 60% say they work more than 50 hours a week), long commutes, open-ended assignments and few opportunities for promotion. Some say they were trained to fly manned aircraft, but were shunted to the “chair force” with empty promises that it would be temporary. A typical air-force stint is three to four years; some drone pilots have been serving for over six.
Even the enemy can become a person when watched close enough.

Rather than the strange belief that killing is costless, and that PTSD is somehow an oddity maybe we should change our worldview to expect that it is generally psychologically a problem for humans. Being made in the image of God has implications.

Ref link.

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