Accession Number:

ADA621793

Title:

The Ethics of Drone Strikes: Does Reducing the Cost of Conflict Encourage War?

Descriptive Note:

Monograph

Corporate Author:

ARMY WAR COLLEGE CARLISLE BARRACKS PA STRATEGIC STUDIES INSTITUTE

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:

2015-09-01

Pagination or Media Count:

68.0

Abstract:

Armed unmanned aerial vehicles combat drones have fundamentally altered the ways the United States conducts military operations aimed at countering insurgent and terrorist organizations. Drone technology is on track to becoming an increasingly important part of the country s arsenal, as numerous unmanned systems are in development and will likely enter service in the future. The increasingly frequent use of drones raises profound questions about the nature and morality of warfare involving asymmetrical risks between opposing belligerents. Concerned citizens, academics, journalists, nongovernmental organizations, and policymakers have raised questions about the ethical consequences of drones and issued calls for their military use to be strictly regulated. This level of concern is evidence that the future of drone warfare not only hinges on technical innovations, but also on careful analysis of the moral and political dimensions of war. Regardless of whether drones are effective weapons, it would be difficult to sanction their use if they undermine the legitimacy of U.S. military forces or compromise the foundations of democratic government. One key ethical challenge drones raise is that removing American soldiers from the battlefield could alter civilians attitudes toward the use of military force in ways that promote war and undermine democratic accountability. Casualty aversion, the civilian public s discomfort with sustaining military casualties and resistance to costly military operations, is a powerful constraint on when and how wars are waged in democratic societies. Political leaders in such polities, and even some high-ranking commanders within the military, may feel pressured by public opinion to wage wars in ways that minimize the risk to soldiers, or to avoid fighting entirely when casualties are likely.

Subject Categories:

  • Pilotless Aircraft
  • Sociology and Law
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement:

APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE