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

Dannatt defends drones but ignores the real issues

General the Lord Dannatt defends use of armed drones
General the Lord Dannatt’s essay defends use of armed drones

Amidst its reporting of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, The Telegraph published an essay on Saturday by Lord Dannatt, the former head of the British army.  In ‘Drone attacks are a vital part of modern warfare’ Dannatt addresses those who feel, as he put it, “a nagging sense of unease” about the drone targeted killing of Mohammed Emwazi aka ‘Jihadi John’.

The essay, using the drone strike on Emwazi as an example, attempts to justify in a broad way the use of armed drones in general as well as their use for targeted killing beyond the battlefield. Read more

UK rebrands Predators as ‘Protectors’ while ignoring difficult questions

In an interview with the Telegraph ahead of the Tory party conference, David Cameron announced that the UK is to again double the UK’s fleet of armed drones, this time up from 10 US Reapers to 20 ‘Protector’ drones.  No such drone currently exists and some began to wonder whether Cameron had simply got the name wrong. However later clarification from the MoD seemed to indicate that the ‘Protector’ was to be the British name for the longer range and extended endurance Predator-B drone (commonly known as the Reaper) which is currently going through a development programme in the US in part to gain the necessary certification to fly in European airspace (although this is not confirmed). Read more

Blurred lines: Drones, the UK and the slippery slope to permanent war

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)

This week’s Guardian revelation that documents leaked by Edward Snowden show apparent GCHQ support for US drone targeted killings in Yemen demonstrates once again how drone technology is eroding our ability to draw the line between being involved in war or not.

Last week I took part in a discussion in parliament on the impact of drone technology. I was pressed by one of the participants on our contention that drones and the concept of remote, risk-free warfare is lowering the threshold for use of lethal force: “We just don’t accept this,” I was told, “where is your evidence?” Read more