Considering the Danger of Smart Weapons

Eyel Weizman’s Lethal Theory developed some fascinating trains of thought, particularly in regards to the potential danger of “smart weapons.” According to Weizman, these include “new methods…devised to allow soldiers not only to see but also to shoot and kill through walls.” Future developments in smart weapons “may have the capacity to render not only the built environment but also life itself transparent, making solid architecture effectively disappear.”

One of the troubling aspects of this is the intellectualization of bloodshed and the convincing from the military-political complex that a greater good is being prevented by the use of smart weapons. At what point does the theoretical threat being avoided break down and the actual threat that has been created become a legitimate issue? We only hear of the good, of what is being avoided; what about what is being perpetrated? The problematic nature of smart weapons is explained well by Weizman: they frequently lead to “higher numbers of civilian casualties simply because the illusion of precision gives the military-political complex the necessary justification to use explosives in civilian environments where they cannot be used without endangering, injuring, or killing civilians.”

With that said, I recognize that the alternative is oftentimes no better. Smart weapons will never be rejected, but even if they were, it’s not as if all would be well and the nature of warfare would be appropriate and humane. Mankind always finds a way to participate in depravity in warfare. The important part of questioning smart weapons is the act of questioning the unquestioned, not allowing our assumptions of what will be good for the very nature of warfare to cloud how we see the reality.

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