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The Ethics of Drone Warfare

Tue 13th

15:20 - 15:40

Due to the lack of a governing body regulating the use of armed drones in the global political context, it is practically subject to no legal constraints. This paves the way to a drone-possessor state's ability to employ said technology in contemporary armed conflicts, secretly or not, without having to make an honest legal or ethical case for their actions. As a consequence, governments can sidestep accountability. Those in favour of armed drones, politicians and scholars of the ethics of war alike, attempt to justify their use by appeal to the traditional criteria of Just War Theory which has provided a framework for the ethical evaluation of war for centuries. Upon closer inspection, however, it becomes evident that current drone practices severely violate the same normative ethical principles they promise to uphold. While drones are, for instance, lauded as high-precision weapons sparing innocent civilians to a much higher degree than traditional bombs, this narrative is dangerously misleading. The US in the War on Terror, for instance, have widened the definition of "terrorist" so as to include military-aged males, that is, civilians, who may then be legitimately targeted in drone strikes. Drone technology, in sum, seems to enable the possessor-state to redefine the rules of war as it pleases which can have terrifying consequences. Can this be avoided?

Sven Maier

Philosophy and Politics

College of Arts

Hi! My name is Sven and I'm a final year Philosophy and Politics student. I'm originally from a small town in Germany but have always loved the challenge of living in new places, so after spending a couple of years in Latin America I decided to come to Glasgow for university. I've always been fascinated by the big, sometimes uncomfortable and many times abstract questions of philosophy, even though (or maybe because) they constantly fry my brain. Over the course of my studies I've become especially interested in moral and political philosophy and political theory and the ways these disciplines with their vast body of thought apply to the real world. It was in a course on the history and strategies of war when I first became aware of the ethical challenges and practical implications posed by new military technologies such as armed drones and started researching how they alter the ways war has traditionally been justified and waged.


When I am not thinking about the prospects of perpetual drone war, I am probably watching some questionable TV shows, enjoying a glass of red with my friends, or planning my next trip abroad.


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