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The Intimacies of Remote Warfare


The Intimacies of Remote Warfare project aims to build an independent, evidence-based expert field which is able to inform the public about the impacts and intimate realities of the remote wars that are waged in their names. In recent years, Western states have increasingly resorted to remote warfare to govern ‘threats at a distance’ across the Middle East and Africa often outside conventional warzones. Remote warfare is a form of military interventionism characterised by a shift away from boots on the ground towards deploying light-footprint military operations. It generally involves a combination of drone strikes and airstrikes from above, special operation forces, private contractors and military training teams on the ground. Although remote warfare is partly about distancing, it also involves close contact through M2M trainings, political alliance formations and collaboration, but also through material manifestations such as bases, compounds, airfields, trucks, ships, supply depots, and bunkers.

While successful at times in terms of defeating enemy combatants, these operations also have led to new and shadowy forms of militarisation, high numbers of civilian casualties and undermined a democratic check on government. The state’s war machine is increasingly off the public’s radar. Remote technologies and forms of organisation allow Western military to largely physically withdraw from the battlefield. Returning body bags are increasingly a thing of the past, and so too is public outcry and scrutiny.  And if civilian deaths from airstrikes do incidentally appear on our screens, a lack of political transparency on who is involved and why, and the repeated claim that interventions are ‘precise and clean’, blurs any public debate on responsibility, and accountability.

This is problematic, because without tracing how creating security-ness for some, may lead to a heightened insecurity for others we run the risk of overseeing the interconnectedness of today’s war zones, and, importantly, how clusters of conflict cross-infect and exacerbate each other. In our digital age, it is impossible to wage a secret war or commit atrocities without being seen. And, ultimately, without having to suffer the consequences of some sort of blowback.

Under research you can read more about the key issues and questions this project aims to address and how it is currently contributing to an expert field on remote warfare.