A Total Failure of Imagination? Unmanned Aerial Systems and the Politics of Technology and Control

“Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance” was written for the United States Military in 1996; the strategies outlined in this document call for “cultural understanding of the adversary” to achieve “total control” and informed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Relying on advanced technologies, the authors imagined rapid dominance would be achieved by both knowing more than their adversary and more effectively manipulating this information. “Shock and Awe” has been widely critiqued, not only by critics of the invasion but also by military officials; I turn to this document, though, to highlight how it intertwines knowledge and domination. The equation between these concepts in military strategy gives one pause, even if it was unsuccessful; “Shock and Awe” serves as a stark reminder of how power and knowledge are linked. Yet, is the authors' equation to simplistic? Looking to Martin Heidegger's “The Question Concerning Technology,” I argue the ways knowledge is shaped is significant. Articulating how practices of knowing, and not-knowing, are entangled with technological/ artistic forms, I seek out possibilities for resisting the equation of knowledge and domination, examining how failure and re-mediation can intervene.
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HCL8