Book Review: ‘The Humanitarian Impact of Drones’

  • The Humanitarian Impact of Drones, edited by Ray Acheson, Matthew Bolton, Elizabeth Minor, and Allison Pytlak,  Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), 2017

The Humanitarian Impact of Drones is, as Chris Heynes says in the preface, “a most welcome contribution to a vital debate,” chiefly because it extends beyond the legal lens used to consider the rights and wrongs of particular targeted killings, often the criticism which dominates the debate on the use of armed drones. Instead, split in to two parts, the report covers broader humanitarian ‘impacts’ and ‘perspectives.’ It includes its fair share of discussion on the impacts of targeted killings and the legal perspectives on these actions but chapters range from the impact on peace and security and the environment, to gender-based and religious perspectives. Throughout, the chapters are interspersed with case studies from countries or regions, relating to the various topics covered. The report moves between practical, theoretical and legal frameworks to offer a comprehensive understanding of the nature of drone warfare in its fullest sense. Read more

Joint civil society statement on US-led armed drones control process

Regular readers of the Drone Wars blog will be aware that in 2016 a US State department initiative led to a political declaration endorsed by 53 states on the export and use of armed drones. However as we detailed at time, this process had a number of problematic aspects, including the weakness and vagueness of the principles it articulated.

Work is now being undertaken by a group of states led by the US to draft more detailed politically binding international standards, building on the declaration. In this context, a group of civil society organisations have set out in an open statement, reproduced below, a range of concerns about the limitations of this initiative – given the harm caused by and risks around drone technology – and made a set of recommendations for the process. Read more

Book Review: ‘Military Robots: Mapping the Moral Landscape’ by Jai Galliott

jai-galliottThe use of military unmanned systems, commonly known as drones, has begun to be one of those subjects with which a variety of popular and academic commentators have utilised to discuss a range of divergent topics. The number of books that actually focus in granular detail on unmanned systems themselves and the consequences of their use can be counted more or less on one hand. Thankfully Jai Galliott’s work can now be added to that number.

Focusing on ethics, Military Robots: Mapping the Moral Landscape, reviews the relevant arguments for using unmanned systems and examines the key criticisms under the broad lens of just war theory. In many ways the book is an extended dialogue with the Bradley Strawser edited volume ‘Killing by Remote Control: The Ethics of Unmanned Military and Christian Enemark’s ‘Armed Drones and the Ethics of War’, both key works but coming from very different perspectives.

Key issues with which Galliott usefully grapples include the implication of reduced risk for users of unmanned systems Read more

‘Anarchist’ hacks Israeli drones

Mary Dobbing, co-author of Drone Wars’ briefing on Israel and the drone wars, looks at the implications of the recent news that US and British spooks hacked Israeli drone feeds.

Image of Heron TP drone - Credit: Laura Poitras/The Intercept
Image of Heron TP drone – Credit: Laura Poitras/The Intercept

The United States and Britain have been hacking into Israeli drone signals and video feeds since 1998 we have learned from latest publication of leaks from former US NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The details were published by The Intercept at the end of January. “This is an earthquake, the worst leak in the history of Israeli intelligence” shouted the headline in The Times of Israel quoting “a security source”. The information hacked related to video feeds and routes-over-the-ground that the drones were flying. Read more

Drones do ‘lower threshold for use of lethal force’ academic study finds

walsh-schulzke2cAlthough some continue to insist that armed drones are in effect no different from other military aircraft, there seems to be increasing acceptance that the technology may lower the threshold for use of force. Stanley McChrystal, for example, former commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told a conference in London late last year that he believed the capabilities of drones could make them more palatable to military decision-makers and “lower the threshold” for lethal force, while a recently released MoD policy document Future Operating Environment 2035’  asserts that:

“increased use [of remote and automated systems] in combat and support functions will reduce the risk to military personnel and thereby potentially change the threshold for the use of force. Fewer casualties may lower political risk and any public reticence for a military response…”

Read more

US drone operations centre to open in the UK?

LakenheathIn December 2015 the US announced plans to vastly expand its drone programme including increasing the number of drones to be purchased, doubling the number of drone operators and opening new drone bases.

According to a report in the LA Times, as part of these plans Pentagon officials are considering putting a drone operations centre at a USAF base in the UK – at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk. Read more