In conflict situations it is important, even essential, to know who it is you are fighting against. First to consider is the issue of the identity of the individual targeted by the drone strike, their status as civilian or combatant, and how that distinction is understood. Then there is the identity of the individual conducting the strike, whether they are military, CIA, or Private Military Contractor (PMC) and what this means legally and ethically. Finally, there is the identity of the drone itself, the way it creates a relationship between the individual conducting the strike and the target. The issue of identity is important because how we construct our understanding of the enemy, of the other, impacts on how we understand their death and the foreign policy decisions which follow.
For those of us interested in the science and emotions of human cooperation, a recent study on the Prisoners’ Dilemma (hereafter PD) by Menusch Khadjavi and Andreas Lange of the Department of Economics at the University of Hamburg makes very interesting reading. Developed by game theorists in the immediate post-war period, and a favorite model of the strategists at the Rand Corporation as they gamed the Cold War strategic nuclear stand-off, the classic payoff structure of the game postulates that the best strategy for a rational player in a single-shot game is always to defect (the classic PD is explained here).