The ethics of drones

I had a short piece published on Comment is Free over the weekend about the various ethical questions raised by the use of drones in military, law enforcement and commercial settings. Here’s a taste:

Philosophers and lawyers, encouraged and occasionally funded by the military-industrial complex, are swarming around the issue. The questions raised are manifold. Do drones lower the threshold of war, encouraging those who deploy them to be more bellicose? Can they or their operators sufficiently discriminate combatants from civilians in order to comply with international law? Are they proportionate, or so horrifically cruel as to qualify, along with anti-personnel landmines and cluster bombs, for prohibition? Does their cybernetic nature make them a biological weapon? What effect does their deployment have on the “hearts and minds” of civilians, or the morale of soldiers? Should we worry that Iran appears to have assumed control of a US drone, having kidnapped it out of the sky? And who is to blame when drones go wrong? The question of responsibility becomes even more central as scholars consider the implications of a future featuring autonomous drones.

You can read the rest here.

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