1st Edition

Armed Drones and the Ethics of War Military virtue in a post-heroic age

By Christian Enemark Copyright 2014
    160 Pages
    by Routledge

    160 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book assesses the ethical implications of using armed unmanned aerial vehicles (‘hunter-killer drones’) in contemporary conflicts.

    The American way of war is trending away from the heroic and towards the post-heroic, driven by a political preference for air-powered management of strategic risks and the reduction of physical risk to US personnel. The recent use of drones in the War on Terror has demonstrated the power of this technology to transcend time and space, but there has been relatively little debate in the United States and elsewhere over the embrace of what might be regarded as politically desirable and yet morally worrisome: risk-free killing. Arguably, the absence of a relationship of mutual risk between putative combatants poses a fundamental challenge to the status of war as something morally distinguishable from other forms of violence, and it also undermines the professional virtue of the warrior as a courageous risk-taker.

    This book considers the use of armed drones in the light of ethical principles that are intended to guard against unjust increases in the incidence and lethality of armed conflict. The evidence and arguments presented indicate that, in some respects, the use of armed drones is to be welcomed as an ethically superior mode of warfare. Over time, however, their continued and increased use is likely to generate more challenges than solutions, and perhaps do more harm than good.

    This book will be of much interest to students of the ethics of war, airpower, counter-terrorism, strategic studies and security studies in general.

    1. Introduction  2. Post-heroic war and armed drones  3. Drones and the war threshold  4. Conducting drone warfare: the case of Pakistan  5. Radical asymmetry and the moral equality of combatants  6. Drone operators and the warrior ethos  7. Autonomous drones and post-human war  8. Conclusion


    Christian Enemark is a Reader in the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University.

    'Enemark's book is useful for students and practioners looking at different aspects of contemporary conflict. He [also makes] the content accessible to those from a non-military or technological background.' - Michelle Jones, Aberystwyth University