Jennifer Welsh (Oxford Univ.), The Morality of Drone Warfare
This paper examines the impact of the increased use of drones in warfare, and their particular role in the practice of targeted killing. The preliminary section challenges some of the commonly held myths about drone technology, and argues that weaponized drones remain a ‘human heavy’ and intimate means of killing. In the second section, I demonstrate that targeted killing through drones has significant implications for what Just War Theory calls jus ad bellum (the legitimacy of engaging in war), and jus in bello (the legitimacy of acts taken during the conduct of war). With respect to JAB, drones have the potential to change states’ conception of, and adherence to, the notion of ‘last resort’ (i.e., that the use of force, because of its lethality and consequences, must only be contemplated after other means have proved unworkable). More specifically, they both raise the threshold for engaging in a large-scale war (since they offer an alternative means of meeting a threat), and encourage relaxation of the ‘last resort’ criterion when contemplating their use (since they are a means short of full-scale war). With respect to JIB, drones offer a better prospect of meeting the requirement of non-combatant immunity. But this in turn has had a morally relevant effect: the U.S. government’s faith in drones’ proportionality and discrimination induces the U.S. to undertake riskier strikes, thereby increasing the likelihood of the collateral damage drones are celebrated for preventing. Moreover, the U.S. government’s implementation of the discrimination principle in the context of counter-terrorism (particularly in ‘signature strikes’), has led to questionable methods for defining a ‘combatant’, which in practice has meant that those who the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) might define as civilians have been killed in drone strikes. This suggests that drone warfare may not actually eliminate risk, but rather transfer much of it from one society to another – raising ethical questions about the legitimacy of such a quest for ‘low cost’ warfare. In my concluding section, I will argue that targeted killing through drones has observable and morally relevant effects not only on the people and societies that are targeted, but also on the society sponsoring the killing (particularly if it is a constitutional democracy) and the individual operating the drone.
Discutant: Christopher Kutz (Berkeley University)
Salle Jean Monnet: 17.00-19.00