1st Edition

The Legitimacy of Drone Warfare Evaluating Public Perceptions

By Paul Lushenko, Shyam Raman Copyright 2024
    156 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book examines public perceptions of the legitimacy of drones, and how this affects countries’ policies on and the global governance of drone warfare.

    Scholars recognize that legitimacy is central to countries’ use of drones, and political officials often characterize strikes as legitimate to sustain their use abroad. This book introduces and tests an original middle-range theory that allows scholars, policy-makers, and practitioners to understand how evolving patterns of drone warfare globally shape the public’s perceptions of legitimacy that can moderate countries’ drone policies and the global governance of drones. Rather than relate drone warfare to a platform or counterterrorism strikes only, as experts often do, this book argues that drone warfare is best understood as a function of the unique ways that countries use and constrain strikes. By updating theories of drone warfare, this book provides a generalizable way to understand public perceptions of legitimacy in cross-national contexts, especially among democratic political regimes that are prefigured on political officials’ accountability for the use of force abroad.

    This book will be of interest to students of security studies, foreign policy, media and communication studies, and International Relations.

    1. Public Opinion and Drone Warfare

    2. Drone Warfare, Legitimacy, and Global Patterns of Strikes

    3. The Legitimacy of Drone Warfare in Comparative Context

    4. Unilateral Constraint and Public Perceptions of Legitimacy

    5. Multilateral Constraint and Public Perceptions of Legitimacy

    6. The Future of Public Opinion and Drone Warfare Studies


    Paul Lushenko is an Assistant Professor and Director of Special Operations at the U.S. Army War College.

    Shyam Raman is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Williams College.

    'The legitimacy of drone warfare is a highly contentious debate to which Paul Lushenko and Shyam Raman have added a fresh perspective. Their book introduces and tests an elegant theory that tracks how evolving patterns of drone warfare shape public perceptions of legitimacy. An important step in the quest for global governance of drones, The Legitimacy of Drone Warfare is a must read for policy makers, academics, and drone critics alike.'

    Daniel Brunstetter, University of California, Irvine, USA

    'This is the best book I have reviewed that analyses public attitudes about drones, which have irrevocably altered the character of war and will continue to have ever-increasing impacts. It is theoretically innovative, offering a new understanding of drone warfare. It is methodologically rigorous, using novel experiments and simulations to show how evolving patterns of drone warfare shape public perceptions of legitimacy around the world. And, it is relevant, bridging the theory and practice of drone warfare to inform policy, strategy, and research. Any serious practitioner or policy-maker needs to read this defining book.'

    Richard Clarke, General Retired, former Commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, USA

    'In a crowded field of studies on drone strikes, this new book adds valuable insight by homing in on an often-neglected concept: perceived legitimacy. It is a must-read for scholars who work on air warfare as well as those study attitudes toward war.'

    Janina Dill, Oxford University, UK

    'This book is a model of research on one of the most consequential developments in international security this century: drone warfare. Lushenko and Raman develop and empirically test an original interdisciplinary theory, informed by unique combat experiences, that shapes how we understand the legitimacy of drone warfare. In doing so, they advance the debate on emerging technologies in war and their findings have important implications for U.S. foreign policy and military strategy.'

    Barry McCaffrey, General Retired, U.S. Army, USA

    'The legitimacy of the use of drones in war and counterterrorism has emerged as a key issue in academic research and policy debates over the past two decades. Lushenko and Raman’s work brings clarity to the issues at stake by forcing us to think clearly about how legitimacy functions in international security. By contributing new empirical evidence that tests our baseline assumptions regarding the legitimacy of drone use, this book makes a valuable contribution to the study of drone warfare and will be an important future reference point for the field.'

    Jack McDonald, Director, Centre for Science and Security Studies, Kings College London, UK

    'Lushenko and Raman provide a novel and extremely pertinent framework for evaluating drone warfare as it relates to public perception and legitimacy. Legitimacy is everything in conflict. Legitimacy matters for the politician that orders an action, the practitioner that executes the action, and the public that forms an opinion of the action. The implications of Lushenko and Raman’s framework, while extremely important to drone warfare, has far greater reach that extends into future conflicts as we move into the age where artificial intelligence, autonomy, and robotics will take a larger role in fighting wars. Highly recommended read for anyone involved in international relations, national security, and government policy.'

    Wayne Phelps, Lieutenant Colonel Retired, U.S. Marine Corps, USA 

    'The Legitimacy of Drone Warfare: Evaluating Public Perceptions makes a sophisticated and original contribution to our understanding of the crucial concept of legitimacy in international relations by examining the subtle factors that shape public attitudes toward the use of drone warfare.  This analysis is especially valuable because of the controversy surrounding the use of such aircraft and the ways in which public perceptions of legitimacy shape how states deploy them.  The result is a set of rich insights not only on drone warfare but on the complex relationship between state military operations and the conditions under which they enjoy public support or opposition.'

    Mitt Regan, Georgetown University, USA

    'Lushenko and Ramen provide an illuminating study on the public’s perceptions of drone warfare. By utilising drones as a lens to analyse contemporary conflict, the authors offer an original take on how impactful drone warfare has been to shaping the public’s understandings of legitimacy in the lethal deployment of force. A must read for political officials, military personnel, and all those interested in the growing global use of military drones.'

    James Rogers, Executive Director, Tech Policy Institute at Cornell University, USA 

    'Lushenko and Raman make a vital contribution to the debate over public opinion and drone use. Getting us beyond simple questions of approval or disapproval, their research opens important doors to rigorous exploration of how public opinion about legitimacy in the use of military force is shaping and being shaped by drone use, including in cross-national comparative perspective. Their highly original research moves the dial on what we can and should be doing to better understand how drone use is impacting the present and future uses of military force and the role democratic publics play in keeping that within the bounds of legitimacy.'

    John C. Williams, Durham University, UK

    'In The Legitimacy of Drone Warfare: Evaluating Public Perceptions, Lushenko and Raman break new ground in analyzing public attitudes about drone warfare, providing unique insights that should guide practitioners, policy-makers, researchers, and civil society in this most modern way of war.'

    Christopher Hunter, University of Tampa, C4ISRNET.Com