Praise for Manhunts, Chamayou's previous book:
"Manhunts is an unusual and stimulating essay. . . . The strength of the book lies in its refusal to treat manhunting as a metaphor. Chamayou instead focuses on the concrete violence of predation, tracking, banishment, captivity, confinement, and the murderousness that goes along with them."
Jean Berard, Books and Ideas
"'Man, wolf to man? Brecht asked the question, Chamayou provides a brilliant and terrifying answer."
Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz and Planet of Slums
"From manhunting for sport in the Occident to the global search for illegal aliens in the twenty-first century, this book offers a history of humans preying on other human beings. Applying the rubric of hunting to contemporary debates about illegal migrants, Chamayou shows that the supposedly newest hunt refreshes an old motif. A provocative take on a topic of great currency."
Jimmy Casas Klausen, University of Wisconsin-Madison
"In Chamayou’s razor-sharp telling, drones fundamentally transform the psychic, moral, and physical space and art of killing. But it is his theory of the drone that is even more chilling. It demands that we consider the emergence of a new ethical and political norm of war that is neither war as we know itnor peace. The ‘principle of immunity for the imperial combatant’ rests on a twisted logic: On the one hand is the achieved capacity of the drone operative (one of many newly installed masters of ‘lethal surveillance’) to move throughout a day between killing fields and coffee breaks, between combat zones and home. On the other hand is the enlisting of a citizenry to accept the ‘moral obligation’ to kill. In this compelling analysis, Amnesty International’s classing of drone strikes as war crimes would be only part of the story. Chamayou’s critical point is that drones alter the very terrain and logic of who deserves to die and implicates us all."
Ann Stoler, Willy Brandt Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology, New School for Social Research
"A virtuoso performance: a wholly original, wide-ranging, and provocative critique of targeted killing from remote platforms that switches from the ‘big picture’ to the detailed view with consummate skill and successfully calls into question many of the central claims advanced by the proponents of later modern war."
Derek Gregory, Peter Wall Distinguished Professor, University of British Columbia
"Chamayou is brilliant. He jumps breezily from Freud and Camus to Marx and Mao, from Israeli and ancient Athenian generals to Russian researchers and Chinese strategists. If you stick with the wild ride, you’ll find his arguments are breathtakingly profound and the translation is superb. Chamayou is masterful at unmasking just how ethically bankrupt and dangerous it is to kill people by remote control."
Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK and author of Drone Warfare
Chamayou, a research scholar at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France's largest government research organization, wrote this book to make the case that in the pursuit of "warfare without risk," armed, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) contradict just about everything morally and legally associated with conventional warfare. The book is a logical extension of issues the author raised in his previous work, Manhunts, about the hunting of humans in its various forms, here specifically applied to military drones. It subjects drone warfare to a moral philosophical analysis focusing mainly on the present Leviathan-like state of the weapon being in the hands of one dominant party in the conflict. Chamayou argues that drones are essentially a coward's weapon; that the nature of the technology changes the terms of warfare between two otherwise equal combatants into a dynamic of hunter and hunted. How, for instance, can drone warfare even be identified as such if ultimately the drone removes one of the combatants from the field of battle? VERDICT It is hard to take issue with these points, although one might find similar ones addressed in Medea Benjamin's Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, which explores the implications that such conflict may not always be one sided. Readers might also consider John Kaag and Sarah Kreps's Drone Warfare. Recommended for public and academic libraries.—Jeffrey J. Dickens, Southern Connecticut State Univ. Libs., New Haven
If you are what you eat, then you are also what you kill with. Q.E.D.The idea that there might be a philosophical theory behind, or at least something philosophical to say about, the use of remote-controlled weapons is a very French one: In this instance, it's not so much the Montaigne-born drive to understand the world as the Barthesian one of fearing letting something obvious go by unremarked. Chamayou, a "research scholar in philosophy," gamely codifies what has gone unsaid: In war, soldiers have to draft a narrative that turns the moral violation of killing into a "virtue, not something prohibited." This is easier done, by his suggestion, when one is looking into the eye of the enemy. But what of the drone operators, tucked safely away in a bunker in the desert? Well, they are "in a sense both in the rear and at the front, caught up in two very different moral worlds that pull their lives this way and that." Nonetheless, the military has admitted that some drone operators far from the front have to be treated for PTSD. "If it is true that weapons constitute the essence of combatants," the author writes, that begs the question, "what is the essence of those who fight using drones?" The implication: A machine, of course, which makes the state behind the murderous technology a sort of machine, as well. In the end, having been treated to a light survey of the ethos of mechanized war, readers are left with the sense that this is the product of someone who must enjoy the unhurried leisure of not being chased around by one of the killing machines he's writing about—a first-world ponderer of third-world problems, perhaps. Chamayou does land some good points in this rather arid exercise, but one would rather have a Camus than a Derrida on this point.