The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Mobile Duck: Wireless for War?

October 6, 2010

I am going to try to keep this short, because the function to split the page is not available in this browser …what browser, you ask? Safari for IPad, I’ll tell you.

I’ve decided to make this my first IPad post in part because I was itching to try it, but also because it seemed fitting for it’s subject matter…a talk that Peter W. Singer gave at ISA-West in Los Angeles on September 25 on his book,Wired for War. So I thought I would write about Wired for War wirelessly. Funny, right? Maybe I should keep my day job. Maybe.

Ok, my thought about this talk and the book is relatively straight-forward, but perhaps still important. Singer started his talk with a commander’s letter “home” to a “dead” robot’s company, thanking the manufacturer for sparing the military the need to write a letter “home” to a soldier’s mother …as if a mother’s grief was the true tragedy of a soldier’s death. Elsewhere in the talk, Singer noted that many people who oppose the use of robotics in the US military or criticize it from an enemy or victim perspective attack the masculinity of its users. They argue that the use of robots is cowardly, and that ‘real men’ face and fight their enemies.

Singer’s analysis, of course, did not highlight the gendered dimensions of these discourses. Still, as important work in this field like Lauren Wilcox’s has demonstrated, this is not the first time that gender discourses have been key to debates about the use of new technologies in war. While, in Singer’s terms, whether ‘we’ are ‘wired’ for war or not seems to matter, being ‘equipped’ at whatever technological level seems include meeting standards of masculinity.

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Laura Sjoberg is British Academy Global Professor of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway University of London and Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. Her research addresses issues of gender and security, with foci on politically violent women, feminist war theorizing, sexuality in global politics, and political methodology. She teaches, consults, and lectures on gender in global politics, and on international security. Her work has been published in more than 50 books and journals in political science, law, gender studies, international relations, and geography.