Shrewsbury School

Salopians attend Ludlow Quaker Meeting lectures

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Philipp Eisenhardt (O LVI) reports on two lectures attended by Shrewsbury School pupils and organised by the Ludlow Quakers' Association - one on drone warfare and the other, given by the Former Deputy Supreme Commander Europe of NATO, on "The Utility of Force in an Age of Insecurity".

On the 2nd October and the 6th November, ten students from Shrewsbury School attended two lectures organised by the Ludlow Quaker Meeting.

The first one was on drone warfare, delivered by Chris Cole. He is part of the Drone Campaign Network, a group that campaigns against the use of drones in armed conflicts. In his talk he spoke about the technical equipment in the drones and about how drones are navigated.

Today 70 countries use drone technology, six of whom are confirmed to be utilising armed drones. British troops made about 360-400 drone strikes in Afghanistan, which makes the topic very current. The big advantage of drones is that you can fight wars with fewer risks to human life.

However, Chris Cole takes the view that, due to the reduced political costs of this ‘risk-free attack’ you create a “PlayStation” mentality and expand the battlefield. In addition he said that drones aren’t as effective as we think and cause huge risks for civilians. According to Cole, the use of drones increases the attacks on NATO soldiers. His speech was very interesting, especially because it is such a frequently discussed and controversial topic.

The second Ludlow talk was on “The Utility of Force in an Age of Insecurity” and was given by General Sir Rupert Smith, Former Deputy Supreme Commander Europe of NATO. In his talk he was able to give us an insider’s impression of being a commander and soldier.  

He began his talk with a quote from Aristotle saying: “People go to war because they have different ideas about peace”. In his opinion, the various global institutions are outdated and unable to give the world peace. According to General Sir Rupert Smith, one problem is that the Security Council is abused by the five big Veto countries. Due to this the Security Council is unable to agree on anything. He emphasised the change in challenges since 1945. Population growth and the scarcity of resources are the latest challenges for security in the modern era.

In his talk, Sir Rupert used some striking metaphors. His depiction of warfare as a series of gladiatorial events was particularly striking. He saw military commanders as producers putting on a spectacle for the public. However, there is a problem. There is another producer putting on his gladiatorial event in the same place at the same time, things are going wrong on the stage, members of the audience are turning up late and interrupting the action, and people are trying to sell ice cream to everyone. He said that the audience, in this case mostly the media, tries to analyse the actions as though it is looking through a drinking straw, meaning that the media reporting is not able to show the situation in a lot of detail.

General Sir Rupert Smith came to the conclusion that violence removes power, but is unable to replace this power, and that our international institutions must be updated to reflect this new reality.

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