November 2012

Philosophy World News / November 2012

Written by Rob Mason

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS), also known as drones, are aircraft either controlled by ‘pilots’ from the ground or increasingly, autonomously following a pre-programmed mission. (While there are dozens of different types of drones, they basically fall into two categories: those that are used for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes and those that are armed with missiles and bombs.

Bradley Strawser, assistant professor of philosophy at Monterey’s Naval Postgraduate School is reported as saying; “both ethically and normatively, there’s a tremendous value in using drones.” “You’re not risking the pilot. The pilot is safe. He has edited a book – Killing By Remote Control: The Ethics of an Unmanned Military – to be published soon by Oxford University Press. Drones, controlled by air force operators in Nevada and New Mexico who track targets on screens, have become Washington’s main weapon against Islamist militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The US reportedly has 7,000 drones operating – more than manned aircraft – and 12,000 more on the ground.

As the CIA, often in conjunction with Department of Defense (DOD) Special Operations forces, becomes more and more deeply involved in carrying out extraterritorial targeted killings both through kill/capture missions and drone-based missile
strikes in a range of countries, the question of its compliance with the relevant legal standards becomes ever more urgent. Assertions by Obama administration officials, as well as by many scholars, that these operations comply with international standards are undermined by the total absence of any forms of credible transparency or verifiable accountability.