There has been an increasing trend for the United States to rely on the use of drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to counter the threat posed by Al-Qaeda and other terrorists mostly from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq. The emergence of this new technology has sparked widespread debate over the ethical justification of its use both in the United States and around the world. There are essentially two distinct camps in the debate, one endorsing armed drones as an efficacious, novel form of warfare, whereas another criticizing it as problematic. In this paper, I will introduce the arguments of both sides, namely, why some people endorse the use of drones and others oppose to it. I will then introduce Bradley Strawser’s viewpoints on drone warfare and explain why I find them persuasive. I will anticipate a few objections to Strawser’s position and demonstrate how Strawser might be able to respond.
2. The Debate Over Drone Warfare
Those in favor of drones argue that drones have many advantages compared with other military weapons in denying terrorists. First, drones are able to most accurately hit their intended targets, thus they help prevent unintended deaths of noncombatants . Drones allow the operator to study his or her targets carefully instead of reacting in the heat of the moment, making strikes more discriminating. The Long War Journal tracked the performance of U.S drones in Pakistan, and the report showed that civilian casualties resulted from drones only counted as 6% of overall fatalities. This number shows that drones kill a lower ratio of civilians to combatants than we have seen in any wars in which other weapons were used. Second, drones reduce risk of their own operators and prevent them from harm. Pilots can fly drones low without fear of losing their lives, and they can watch and guide the missiles all the way down even in the mist of dust clouds. Third, Drones are cheaper and easier to maintain than manned aircraft, and they place lighter footprint to the U.S. The Obama administration officials have contrasted the drone program’s relative precision, economy and safety with the huge costs in lives and money of the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan , and concluded that drones are efficacious in making America safer and economical.
Opponents of drone strikes argue that drones might not only fail to actually reduce civilian casualties but also give rise to a long list of serious ethical concerns. One of the major concerns is that drones may lower the threshold of jus ad vellum [explain] such that more unjust wars might be conducted. In other words, using drones can seduce the Americans into employing violence when they otherwise would not have, since the risks for the operators could become so minimal. Suppose the Americans only have manned aircraft, then they would probably initiate less military attacks than they do now for the fact that the American soldiers themselves are also at risk. Thus drones,...