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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 45, Issue 1, January 2019

Daniel Restrepo
Pages 103-126
DOI: 10.5840/soctheorpract201911153

Naked Soldiers, Naked Terrorists, and the Justifiability of Drone Warfare

A hallmark of the war on terror is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, to kill terrorists abroad. I argue that the justification for targeted killing is based on the same logic as the justification for killing the Naked Soldier in traditional wars. Since many drone strikes are personal strikes—the targeted killing of known individuals—this seems like a more justifiable attack than one against anonymous soldiers. Yet, I propose there are three problems to this analogy that makes killing the Naked Terrorist—one unaware of the danger he is in—worse than killing the Naked Soldier: First, there is the epistemological problem regarding knowing with some certainty that the targets are indeed terrorists. Second, terrorists do not seem to pose a great enough danger for the necessity claim. Lastly, drones may not be as precise as the US claims they are.