Drone Warfare

August 6, 2010 • Volume 20, Issue 28
Are strikes by unmanned aircraft ethical?
By Thomas J. Billitteri


Unmanned Predator drones (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Erik Gudmundson)
Unmanned Predator drones used by the United States fly at up to 50,000 feet and can take reconnaissance photos and shoot laser-guided Hellfire missiles. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Erik Gudmundson)

Unmanned “drone” aircraft controlled from remote video consoles are being used in increasing numbers by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and by the CIA in Pakistan and other places outside of recognized war zones. Some scholars argue the CIA strikes in Pakistan are illegal, while others say they comply with the laws of war. The spread of armed drones, along with resulting civilian deaths, is raising ethical concerns as well as questions about drones' effectiveness. The U.S. military now possesses some 7,000 drones, and more than 40 nations, including Iran and China, have drone technology. Unmanned aircraft are being used for everything from border control and environmental monitoring to drug interdiction and building inspections. Some policy experts worry that as drones expand worldwide, they not only could make the United States a more potent military force but also put it at greater risk of attack from enemies possessing the technology.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Ethics in War
Sep. 16, 2022  The War in Ukraine
Jul. 13, 2012  Privatizing the Military
Aug. 06, 2010  Drone Warfare Updated
May 2010  Confronting Rape as a War Crime
Jan. 2010  Truth Commissions
Feb. 27, 2009  Closing Guantánamo Updated
Jul. 2008  Child Soldiers
Sep. 2007  Torture Debate
Aug. 25, 2006  Treatment of Detainees
Apr. 18, 2003  Torture
Dec. 13, 2002  Ethics of War
Sep. 13, 2002  New Defense Priorities
Jul. 07, 1995  War Crimes
Apr. 26, 1972  Status of War Prisoners
Oct. 07, 1970  Military Justice
Jul. 12, 1967  Treatment of War Prisoners
Dec. 03, 1952  War Prisoner Repatriation
Sep. 07, 1948  War Trials and Future Peace
Jul. 07, 1945  Enemy Property
Nov. 20, 1943  Courts-Martial and Military Law
Mar. 15, 1943  War Guilt Trials
Mar. 30, 1942  War Atrocities
Feb. 02, 1942  Prisoners of War
Aug. 11, 1938  Aerial Bombardment of Civilian Populations
Iraq War