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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 29, Issue 2, Fall 2015

Todd Burkhardt
Pages 167-176

Justified Drone Strikes are Predicated on R2P Norms

The US has conducted or routinely conducts personality and signature drone strikes into Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and most likely other states as well. The US does this in order to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat terrorist organizations (Al Qaeda, Taliban, Haqqani, al-Shabaab, ISIL, and their affiliates). In some of these attacks, states have given their expressed (e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen) or tacit (e.g., Pakistan) consent to the US to conduct these drone strikes. However, some states do not consent to the US conducting kinetic drone strikes within their territory. In these cases, it seems prima facie reasonable to suggest that these acts or use of force are unjustified because they violate the political sovereignty and territorial integrity of a non-consenting state. Furthermore, the US is not at war with these other states so there is no leeway in suggesting that a state has a right to conduct these operations against another state. As it currently stands, attempting to use jus ad bellum (justice of war) criteria to discern a state’s moral justification for implementing force short of war (drone strikes) is not only unhelpful but fails to provide a reasonable framework. The use of armed drones is a recent phenomena that will continue to evolve, and with this comes a need for establishing a set of moral guidelines on a state’s implementation of them. In an attempt to remedy this shortcoming, we need to look at drone strikes not as an act of war but as an act or force short of war. I want to make the case that drone strikes can be morally justified using the Responsibility to Protect norms. That is, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) norms should be the guiding norms with regard to jus ad vim (the just use of force short of war). Incorporating the R2P norms into a jus ad vim account provides a framework of when states can morally resort to the use of force.

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