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The enduring problem of ‘grey’ drone violence

The enduring problem of ‘grey’ drone violence
The enduring problem of ‘grey’ drone violence
This article addresses the problem of drone violence that is ‘grey’ in the sense of being hard to categorise. It focuses on circumstances, such as arose in Pakistan, in which a foreign government’s armed drones are a constant presence. A lesson from US experience there is that the persistent threat of drone strikes is intended to suppress activities that endanger the drone-using state’s security. However, this threat inevitably affects innocent people living within potential strike zones. To judge such drone use by reference to military ethics principles is to assume that ‘war’ is going on, but indefinite drone deployments are difficult to conceptualise as war, so traditional Just War thinking does not suffice as a basis for moral judgment. In assessing the US government’s commitment to drone-based containment of risks emerging along its ‘terror frontier’, the article considers three alternative conceptualisations of drone violence arising in non-war contexts: vim (‘force short of war’), terrorism and imperialism. It then rejects all three and proposes that such violence is better conceptualised as being merely ‘quasi-imperialistic’. On this basis, however, the sustaining of a drone strike campaign against a series of suspected terrorists can still be condemned as violating the right to life.
Drones, Ethics, Terrorism, Imperialism, International relations
2057-5645
304-321
Enemark, Christian
004b6521-f1bb-426a-a37b-686c6a8061f6
Enemark, Christian
004b6521-f1bb-426a-a37b-686c6a8061f6

Enemark, Christian (2021) The enduring problem of ‘grey’ drone violence. European Journal of International Security, 7 (3), 304-321. (doi:10.1017/eis.2021.24).

Record type: Article

Abstract

This article addresses the problem of drone violence that is ‘grey’ in the sense of being hard to categorise. It focuses on circumstances, such as arose in Pakistan, in which a foreign government’s armed drones are a constant presence. A lesson from US experience there is that the persistent threat of drone strikes is intended to suppress activities that endanger the drone-using state’s security. However, this threat inevitably affects innocent people living within potential strike zones. To judge such drone use by reference to military ethics principles is to assume that ‘war’ is going on, but indefinite drone deployments are difficult to conceptualise as war, so traditional Just War thinking does not suffice as a basis for moral judgment. In assessing the US government’s commitment to drone-based containment of risks emerging along its ‘terror frontier’, the article considers three alternative conceptualisations of drone violence arising in non-war contexts: vim (‘force short of war’), terrorism and imperialism. It then rejects all three and proposes that such violence is better conceptualised as being merely ‘quasi-imperialistic’. On this basis, however, the sustaining of a drone strike campaign against a series of suspected terrorists can still be condemned as violating the right to life.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 8 October 2021
e-pub ahead of print date: 4 November 2021
Published date: 4 November 2021
Additional Information: Funding Information: Research for this article was supported by funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant No. 771082). For providing valuable feedback on earlier versions of this article, the author is grateful to Caroline Holmqvist, Nina Kollars, and three anonymous EJIS reviewers. Publisher Copyright: Copyright © 2021 The Author(s).
Keywords: Drones, Ethics, Terrorism, Imperialism, International relations

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 451881
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/451881
ISSN: 2057-5645
PURE UUID: d1ea24a5-e534-4dd8-804b-93f22c863331
ORCID for Christian Enemark: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-1833-0927

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 02 Nov 2021 17:42
Last modified: 17 Dec 2022 02:51

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