The Kill Box: A Temporary Zone of Slaughter

How kill boxes and drone technology are changing the world into a giant hunting ground with no borders or escape.


| January 2015


A Theory of the Drone (The New Press, 2015), by Grégoire Chamayou, urges us to broaden the range of questions we ask about drone policy beyond right versus wrong. As remote-controlled drones turn our enemies into mere targets with no threat of returned fire, we’re asked to consider what happens when warfare no longer necessitates combat. In the following excerpt from Chapter 6, “Kill Box,” Chamayou examines the kill box, a mobile battle zone, and the effects it could have on aerial sovereignty.

Nothing man can do on the surface of the earth can interfere with a plane in flight, moving freely in a third dimension.

—Giulio Douhet

With the concept of a “global war against terror,” armed violence has lost its traditional limits: indefinite in time, it is also indefinite in space. The whole world, it is said, is a battlefield. But it would probably be more accurate to call it a hunting ground. For if the scope of armed violence has now become global, it is because the imperatives of hunting demand it.

While warfare is defined, in the last analysis, by combat, hunting is essentially defined by pursuit. Two distinct types of geography correspond to the two activities. Combat bursts out wherever opposing forces clash. Hunting, on the other hand, takes place wherever the prey goes. As a hunter-state sees it, armed violence is no longer defined within the boundaries of a demarcated zone but simply by the presence of an enemy-prey who, so to speak, carries with it its own little mobile zone of hostility.

In order to elude its pursuers, the prey endeavors to render itself undetectable or inaccessible. Now, inaccessibility is a matter not simply of the topography of the landscape— bushy heaths or deep crevices—but also of the asperities of political geography. As the theorists of manhunting remind us, “borders are among the greatest allies” that a fugitive can have. Out in the countryside, English common law used to authorize “the hunting of ravenous prey, such as badgers and foxes, in another man’s land, because destroying such creatures is said to be profitable to the Public.” That is the kind of right that the United States today would like to claim in the case of human prey worldwide. As Paul Wolfowitz has put it, we need “to deny them sanctuaries.”

HOWARDL
1/23/2015 2:43:43 PM

Drones are essentially flying TV cameras equipped with weapons. They can be fooled with camouflage and shot down. They seem invincible because probable targets haven't yet refined systems to counter them. Even now, the most obvious strategy against drones is for probable targets to stay indoors and move at night. What do drone operators like the U.S. military do to combat that? What tactics are the presumed enemies developing? What's more, drones create domestic hazards. What is being done to keep the technology from be adapted by terrorists? What keeps a group hiding somewhere on this planet from, say, blowing up the White House?