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Why Armed Drones Won’t Be Banned

Posted on February 5, 2013

As drones have become the most prominent weapon in the US arsenal, scrutiny of their use has grown. People note the hundreds of civilian casualties they have caused, and are concerned by the secrecy of their rules of engagement and the seeming remove their operators have from the real-world consequences of their actions.

In response, some are calling for drones to be banned. As one petition puts it, drones “remoteness provides those responsible with a sense of immunity. Weaponized drones are no more acceptable than land mines, cluster bombs, or chemical weapons. The world must renounce and forbid their manufacture, possession, or use. Violators must be held accountable.”

Precision and civilian casualties

Mines, cluster bombs, and chemical weapons are partially or fully banned because they are indiscriminate, which does not describe armed drones. The anti-drone campaigners may be mistaking the policies that cause civilian casualties for drones’ inherent characteristics.

Early in the Vietnam War, the US government found that it was killing or seriously injuring 1,000 civilians each week — and this was before the height of the conflict, so these numbers likely grew worse. More recently, the Sri Lankan government is said to have killed 40,000 civilians in five months as it concluded that country’s civil war in 2009. In both cases, this was driven by policy and by the imprecision of weapons such as artillery and air strikes.

As now employed, drones are much more discriminate and precise than most other weapons systems. Some have even suggested that they are so superior to other weapons in this regard that their use might become morally obligatory.

Read more: Why Armed Drones Won't Be Banned | World Future Society.

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