The ethics of war seem to be sometimes disturbing but necessary examine, especially to someone who is opposed to war or to violence of any kind, yet it is widely examined as an important ethical concern.
When someone thinks of warfare, you might think about “man to man” like in combat one soldier is encountered by another soldier from the other side and makes their decision to kill or not kill. Although that was exactly how warfare happened in the early years of America.
War seems to have taken on a new method execution due to the rapid changes and advancements in technology in the recent years.
Drone warfare is becoming an increasingly preferred method of war for America. Drones provide an advantage over other countries. Th goal of this paper is to discuss America’s drone warfare from an ethical standpoint while taking into account the war theory, The Thomas Nagel’s argument for moderate absolutism, and the general ethics of this issue as well.
In 1914, The British began to study missiles they were in hopes to achieve the possibility of guiding a flying bomb to its target using just radio signals. Their two test flights failed and although they still believed it was possible, they gave up. Around the sametime America began to test flights of their own. These projects were directed by Charles Kettering he developed the Kettering Bug. He was also the founder of the Delco and Sperry companies in 1917.
The Kettering Bug was a pilotless plane made of wood it weighed 600 pounds, including a 300lbs bomb as payload.
It was powered by a forty horsepower Ford engine (Lethbridge, History of Rocketry: The Early 20th century). The Kettering Bug was a success, and it began the history of drone warfare in America. Recently, America has been including robots in their drone army. Some of these include “robots mounted with machine guns, self-guided bombs called “Brilliant Weapons”, and even digital camouflage for troops and vehicles” ( Maine, Brachle , Ethics and the advancement of military technology”)
The first ethical concern that arises from this information is whether it is more ethical to use drones in war than it is to use humans. There is the argument that it is more ethical because there is no human relation involved. It seems to follow from this, however, that would make it less ethical.
The fact that we are removing our human presences from the other humans we are killing implies that we feel the need to protect ourselves from the potential damage emotional and mentally, both individual and as country. If, for instance, America sends drones to bomb a terrorist base, we feel less responsible for any collateral damage. In addition, no soldiers will see their friends dying beside them and we will suffer little or no loss as far as our own combatants go.
That arguments sounds good for us, but it doesn’t seem to take into account what the other side faces. Although it may be true that drones are becoming far more accurate, there is no place for an argument that says they have no collateral damage. This leads us to the discussion of how much collateral damage is allowed as well as other aspects “just war theory”
The most important parts of the “just war theory” are the “jus ad bellum” (criteria that is to be confirmed before engaging in war) and the “jus in bello (the law that governs warfare) (Brough,Lango,van der Linden, “Just War Principles). The most relevant parts of just war theory are the in bello principles, namely discrimination and proportionality.
This new warfare that we send out and the bombs we drop do not have the ability to discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. According to the Just war theory “soldiers should be able to discriminate between combatants and noncombatants and target only the former” (brough, Lango, van der Linden,”Jus War Principles: An Introduction”) The problem with this situation is that there are no soldiers in action to separate one type of person from the other.
Drones lack the human ability to make this distinction. Another way we can look at this is through discrimination how much collateral damage is acceptable and under what conditions. The Harm of noncombatants is typically seen as an acceptable result of military actions” (brough, Lango, van der Linden,”Jus War Principles: An Introduction”) This brings us the question of what proportionality is and how it can be applied to the use of drones in war.
According to the proportionality principle of jus war theory, “Forces should be used in proportion to the end pursued , and destruction beyond what is necessary to reach a military objective is morally suspect” (brough, Lango, van der Linden,”Jus War Principles: An Introduction”)
For example, it seems incredibly out of proportion to drop a bomb on a place like Hiroshima, a cultural full of innocent citizens in order to make a point. There is the reasoning that there were military centers located there, but it seems that all america wanted to do was scare the japanese into ending the war.
It could be thought that the reasoning behind president Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only two atomic bombs ever deployed in war, that benefits the potential for ending the war would outweigh the harm caused either in the sense of damage to the “enemy” or what would happen had truman not acted.
As far as the Hiroshima case goes, because such a small portion of the people there actually posed threat to us and the bomb was dropped for the sake of making a point, it is a fair argument that we did not act appropriately. While this is not a case consisting of drone aircraft, it is fair to say that the principle of proportionality is completely relevant, if not the same.
Thomas Nagel’s discussion of the ethics of war through his view of moderate absolutism brings up some very interesting ideas. One point that he makes is that, “Hostility is a personal relation, and it must be suited to its target ” (Nagel,”War and Massacre”).
As soon as drones become involved, the potential for a “personal relation” vanishes. Ignoring the reasons officials have given to justify their use, ie.accuracy benefits, less damage to our side, etc· it can be argued that a major benefit is the complete avoidance of personal relations. Another relevant idea that Nagel discusses is ” that hostility or aggression should be directed at its true object.
This means both that it should be directed at the person or persons who provoke it and that it should aim more specifically at what is proactive about them ” (Nagel,”War and Massacre”). The use of a drone to drop a bomb or simply gain intelligence removes the interpersonal relation that Nagel discusses so thoroughly. It’s almost as though America is hiding behind its technology so we don’t have to feel so awful about our past, current and future actions.
One major argument in favor of the rapid advancement in military technology in america is that ultimately, when we must choose war over peace,our weapons will be so accurate that there will be no collateral damage. This goal sound extreme, but it is certainly a great one to have.
Another argument for this side is that even though the drones are doing the job, people are controlling them. Drone warfare may eliminate any “man to man” combat in the future, but it isn’t much different in essence. This is reminiscent of the saying, “guns don’t kill people;people kill people.”
This paper was not on pacifism nor was the term in the prompt but it seems important to mention nonetheless. As great as the idea of “zero collerga damage” sounds doesnt peace sound even better? It is true at times, that war may be necessary in order to bring an end to an evil in hopes of bringing about a greater good, but it is also true that in many cases war could be prevented through a little pacifism and diplomacy.
Maybe america should try talking things out. It sounds elementary , but honestly ,it might be worth the try. For example had we employed a little diplomacy , we might be at war right now. Our immediate reaction to an attack such as the 9/11 disaster and the alleged existence of “weapons of mass destruction” was to invade and destroy. It is quite possible that,we had taken a more peaceful route, or even simply, sought out accurate information , over ten thousand families would still have their sons and daughters, fathers and mothers.
Drones warfare seems like it could go either way in ethics,depending on what becomes of it in the future and how it is used. On one hand, it eliminates the potential for humans relations and hasn’t been perfected to the point of being a jus method of conduct in war.
One the other hand, the future advancements in military technology seem promising in that they could lead to drones that could be incredibly accurate which would result in zero collateral damage. This issue is more complex than it seems in this essay, but essential consideration are here addressed.
Drone warfare has the potential to be considered ethical, especially when used in accordance with the principle of jus war theory but that doesn’t mean that steps should be not taken to prevent war in the first place.
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