The Ethics and Politics of Drone Warfare

Joseph A. Camilleri, 'The Ethics and Politics of Drone Warfare', The Journal of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations, 13(2), November 2013, 5-17.


The use of drones is now the subject of increasing contention internationally and
to a lesser extent within the United States itself. During Obama’s presidency, the
use of drones has become the favoured response of the US military and intelligence
establishment to the terrorist threat. However, the justification of drone warfare
offered by US policy-makers, though it often invokes just war principles, falls short
of the requirements of the just war doctrine. The apparent inability of the Obama
Administration to think through the costs and consequences of increased reliance
on armed drones is perhaps a casualty of the Bush legacy, best encapsulated by the
‘war on terror’ and the doctrine of pre-emption on which it rests. This paper argues
that the military use of drones raises disturbing and wide-ranging ethical and political
questions which the international community must urgently address.