Moral & Legal Challenges of Drone Warfare

Peace Policy

Ethicists and international legal experts speaking at the Kroc Institute conference (March 19-21) raised concerns about the implications of drone warfare. Martin Cook(U.S. Naval War College) noted that drone weapons reduce the risk to U.S. forces and result in fewer civilian casualties, but they may increase the temptation to use force. They may be “tactically smart but strategically dumb,” he said.

The justifications for drone warfare offered by Obama administration officials invoke the jus ad bellum and jus in bello criteria of just war doctrine, presenters said, but they fail to mention the core principle at the heart of this doctrine:  the presumption against the use of force. Just war principles of discrimination and last resort are often cited in rhetoric but are frequently violated in practice.

Under jus ad bellum criteria, Jennifer Welsh (Oxford University) argued, military force can be used only under very specific and necessary circumstances: …

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