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Drones, Robots and the Ethics of War (Statman)

In short by Gertrud Maria Vaske

Rapid development of unmanned weapons technology could mean that fighting in the future increasingly takes place between remote-controlled machines instead of between people. In his essay, Prof. Dr. Daniel Statman points out that despite some disadvantages, the new technologies could represent ethical progress in the history of warfare.

At the same time, he raises the question of protecting civilians, who should not be put at risk by drones. It therefore needs to be established whether and to what extent the use of drones is different than other weapons delivery systems and tools of war, and whether there is any sound evidence that drones pose a greater threat to civilians.

Statman gives a positive assessment of drones with regard to their accurate target discrimination and proportionality in the use of force. The fact that they reduce the risks to soldiers also counts in their favor from an ethical point of view. As a result, the willingness to take part in humanitarian interventions will tend to increase. He cites efficiency and cost-saving as additional plus-points.

He dismisses as irrelevant arguments such as those concerning “disrespectful death”, unfair or “dirty” killing, and speculation that “riskless killing” from a distance undermines the license to kill.

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