Pentagon creates new medal for cyber, drone wars
Feb 13, 2013 (Stars and Stripes - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that U.S. defense officials say they are creating a new medal that can be awarded to troops who have a direct impact on combat operations but do it from afar.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to individuals for "extraordinary achievement" related to a military operation. Unlike other combat medals, it would not require the recipient to risk his or her life.
The medal is a recognition of the evolving 21st Century warfare where troops fight wars from computers and video screens, AP noted. The medal could go to service members who never set foot in a combat zone, but launch drone strikes or cyberattacks that kill or disable an enemy.
Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement has not yet been made, AP reported.
Critics have derided the medal as redundant, given that awards for technical expertise, meritorious service or both outside war zones exist in the array of medals the services already offer. Some ridiculed the idea outright.
"So medals would be awarded for sitting safely ensconced in a bunker on U.S. soil and launching bombs with a video joystick at human beings thousands of miles away," wrote commentator Glenn Greenwald for Salon.com in a July 2012 column.
Yet some see merit in the idea, questioning the current definition of "war zone."
Air Force Maj. David Blair, writing in the May-June 2012 issue of the Air & Space Power Journal, notes that the users of new technology, from catapults and crossbows to nuclear submarines, have always been dismissed as less praiseworthy than traditional warriors.
Blair asks how much difference there is in terms of risk "between 10,000 feet and 10,000 miles," if "combat risk" is to be weighed as a factor in awards.
A "manned aircraft . . . that scrapes the top of a combat zone, well outside the range of any realistic threat" is deemed in "combat," Blair writes, but a Predator firing a missile is considered "combat support."
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