Thursday, May 12, 2011

Warrior Dogs: Woof?

The mission to raid the Bin Laden compound has focused a lot of attention on the one dog apparently involved.  The use of dogs in Afghanistan and Iraq is not so much news, thanks in part to Rebecca Frankel's posts in Tom Rick's column.  Now the NYT has the warrior dogs featured on its website.

On the one hand, it is pretty cool that dogs and their noses bring heaps of talent to the fight, helping to deal with the various improvised explosive devices that riddle Afghanistan.  The idea of dropping a dog with its Special Operator into the compound is just inherently interesting.  And not just because following SealDog6 on twitter is nearly as amusing as following Drunken Predator.  But that does not hurt either.

The problem, of course, is that the dogs can and do get hurt and killed.  They may enjoy their training, but they have no free will in terms of choosing combat.  Perhaps this is no different than the good old days of using horses as part of the cavalry, but attitudes about animals have changed over the decades.  We mind that children are used as soldiers (a relatively new cottage industry has developed to study this phenomenon), and I am guessing that we will see a smaller but still passionate literature develop to address the dogs in combat. 

It is not that I am a card-carrying member of PETA.  I like to eat dead cows, pigs, and chickens; I wear leather shoes; and I have gone to circuses and zoos and seaworlds with only the occasional twinge of guilt.  I would love to swim with a dolphin (the Spew kid got to do that while I was busy conferencing in Hawaii a few years ago).  So, I am not automatically opposed to using dogs as assets in war, but I am squeamish.  Indeed, I am far more squeamish about using dogs in combat than about killing Bin Laden.  The latter chose his occupation--as leader of non-state violent actor in war against the U.S.  One of the risks of making that choice is a bullet in the head.  But dogs do not elect to join the all-volunteer professional army of the present day.  They are drafted. 

I do not know what to think.  Your thoughts?

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