Murder By Remote Control

The Ethics of Remote Controlled Weapon Systems.

In a previous article that I titled Murder Drones, I proffered some of my ideas on the ethics of conducting warfare and military operations using remote controlled aircraft, or drones as they are more commonly called. This addition to those thoughts, prompted by this report in BBC News, adds another dimension to my previous article.

When a pilot takes his aircraft into battle, he puts his plane, himself (and his crew if any) at risk of injury, capture or death. This is not so for the ‘play station’ pilots’ who operate the drones from hundreds, or thousands of miles away from both the take off and landing strip and from the target. There is zero risk to the pilot, unless he rocks too far back in his comfy chair and it tips over.

The aspect I’m putting forward for consideration and debate, in a moment or two, is one that might have been well considered and discussed elsewhere but that I have not seen, or read anything about.

Just because the pilot of a remote controlled aircraft is thousands of miles away, is he or the location from which he is operating the equipment, a legitimate target for countrymen of those under attack, or for a retaliatory strike after an attack by a drone?

Obviously in this scenario it would need some kind of special forces deployed to, or fifth columnists in, the country from which the drone(s) are controlled. Can you imagine the reaction if this were to happen in USA or Great Britain? I bet the first cry to go up would be ‘terrorism’ but is it? When a plane is shot down in defence of people or country, there is a high probability that its pilot and crew would be maimed or killed. Would an attack on a drone control centre really any different? It just happens that the pilot is not actually sitting in the plane. He’s controlling it from a great distance but nevertheless as the controller of a weapons system designed to kill, is there any reason why he should not be a legitimate military target too?

It seems to me that, if you’re going to shoot at someone, anyone, from any place, you need to be prepared for them to shoot back and that must include a threat to the operators and bases of remotely operated weapons.

As with some other of my posts I do not have an answer but perhaps this will provoke more questions on the ethics of warfare without risk to one side.

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