CHANGE IN MILITARY AFFAIRS PAPER/ ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY
Pilotless aircraft are increasingly becoming the preferred warfare tool to undertake surveillance and institute armed attacks in the present world. Remotely piloted aircraft (drones) first appeared during the 1990s when the U.S. military used it for surveillance. Technological advances and cost reductions have resulted in the increased utilization of drones for different purposes, including filming, recreation, delivering essential medications in remote areas, and monitoring conservation, among other purposes. The advancement in military technology and the primary drones utilized currently are advancements of technologies first used to identify concealed Serbian positions during the Kosovo war was 1999. The U.S. first deployed weapons on drones almost straight away after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. During this time, President George W. Bush sanctioned the utilization of drones against al-Qaeda force leaders. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) by Congress allowed drones against al-Qaeda forces to kill or target enemies. The U.S. holds two forms of drones. These include the small ones that undertake surveillance missions and the bigger ones that can carry missiles to conduct targeted killings and strikes. The U.S. military and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have undertaken drone strikes. Initially, President Bush selected the Afghanistan airspace as a war zone, although the U.S. has since utilized drones in other areas worldwide, targeting and killing al-Qaeda forces. The U.S. justifies its increased use of drones, claiming it can target and kill al-Qaeda forces anywhere in the world.
The paper is about using drones for both Iraq/Afghanistan wars and how they have affected the U.S. military and capability to handle a near-peer threat. To ensure the research becomes a success, it will undertake extensive assessment and analysis while using qualitative design research. It will gather most of the information from secondary data sources, particularly peer-reviewed journals. The paper will synthesize the data by reviewing different documentations while basing facts on ethnography, phenomenology, historical documentaries, and case studies. It will emphasize concerns revolving around the U.S. increased use of drones and the U.S. justification for their growing utilization to prepare for imminent peer threats. It will also focus on how drones promise to reduce risks that soldiers and civilians face on the battlefield while serving as an addition to increased military capability in the battleground. Also, even with the increasing need for using drones in warfare, the paper will require that the U.S. honor the duty to the practical application of drone technology when launching attacks. The paper will also emphasize the scope of the obligation to utilizing drones in warfare as an area of concern, particularly for the U.S. due to its military, financial, and technological capabilities over other countries.
How has the use of drones for both Iraq/Afghanistan wars affected the U.S. military and capability to handle a near-peer threat?
Concerns Revolving around U.S. Increased Use of Drones
America’s increasing use of drones in its continuing fight against terrorism has emerged a legally, morally, and politically controversial issue, which divides the U.S. from other countries of the world, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the U.S. has increasingly utilized drones to undertake its growing military activities overseas, such as the targeted killing of people suspected of engaging in terrorist acts, most of the U.S.’s allies consider drone attacks as a display of arrogance and disdain for international law. The utilization of drones faces numerous international scene challenges and is burdened with intense legal and constitutional difficulties under U.S. law.
The U.S. has continued to grow its drone programs snowballing frequency starting the mid-2000s. One program, which the military operates, runs armed drones in Afghanistan. It has also deployed similar programs in countries, such as Libya and Iraq, targeting those battling against NATO and U.S. troops in those nations. The U.S. recently deployed airstrikes using drones against soldiers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The drone program, which the CIA runs, is more controversial. It targets and kills Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders mostly situated in the northwestern region of Pakistan and those utilizing Pakistani hubs to institute attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan. It also plans attacks against soft targets in the United States and Europe. The CIA’s covert operations have targeted vital al-Qaeda leaders, Taliban fighters and leaders, and their external operations network.
The increased utilization of the drone program by the CIA grew significantly during the Obama administration in which American spies engaged in a historically uncommon and ambitious war campaign. The CIA even regarded using drones as the only efficient weapons in disrupting and confronting al-Qaeda leadership. However, the Obama Administration continually declined to discuss the drone program’s primary aspects, and no sufficient information was released concerning the number of drone casualties or strikes. President Obama authorized more drone attacks that President Bush did during his presidency. The higher number of drone attacks resulted in a significant increase in the number of casualties from the attacks. Even with the departure of the U.S. military from Iraq in December 2011, surveillance programs operate to aid the U.S. in protecting the U.S. Consulates and Embassy and the American staff in the nation. Reports reveal that the State Department might be considering extending the program to other countries it perceives as threats. Concerns are also emerging regarding drones’ domestic use domestically, whether by private commercial entities or law enforcement agencies.
The use of drones by the U.S. military and the CIA will continue increasing, which means that these will serve as the ‘weapons of choice’ for fighting terrorism. For instance, when the United States attacked Iraq in 2003, the number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) had amounted to less than 50, while it has over 7000 in 2010. Many drones fly over Pakistan, leading to the emergence of –command-and-control issues. Starting in 2009, the number of drone pilots the U.S. Air Force has trained is more than bomber pilots. Also, beginning 2011, the number of drone pilots the U.S. Air Force trained was more than bomber and fighter pilots combined, even though these are not adequate. Recent studies reveal that the Air Force is facing growing demands for drone pilots, leading it to encounter a crisis in its capacity for fulfilling vital missions.
The covert drone attacks the CIA orchestrates worldwide, including areas beyond identifiable war zones, raise numerous challenging questions, which policymakers, scholars, and the media keep discussing heavily. The problems have resulted in the emergence of innumerable debates. However, it appears no sufficient attention has been directed to the army’s utilization of drones in undertaking attacks in battlefield zones, including Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan. Regarding the proponents of drone usage’s existing policies, they claim that drone strikes against enemies in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan are not innately illegal. They also assert that it is not unlawful or wrong to deploy drone attacks where there is no means of stopping an impending attack. Others claim that missiles fired from drones are not any different from those other typically utilized weapons, including guns fired from helicopters or soldiers or gunships, which fire missiles. The vital legal question that exists is the same for every weapon, irrespective of whether its specific utilization abides by International Humanitarian Law. Thus, drones might be deployed on battlefields as long as their actual utilization complies with the law of armed conflict (LOAC). In this case, the discussion has until presently emphasized whether states have legal rights to deploy drones and utilize them for undertaking military activities on battlefields.
On the concerns regarding whether drones must be used, President Obama stipulated in his State of the Union address of 2013 that the U.S would not be safer if individuals overseas believe the country strikes within their nations without considering the repercussion. However, it remains unclear what would happen if drones’ utilization leads to engaging in military strikes without concerns for repercussions. In this case, it is essential to consider how an army leader participates in planning activities against enemies in densely populated regions. Unluckily, such operations might lead to collateral damage, including hurting civilians, losing people’s lives, or damaging civilian property. However, irrespective of such harms, the attack might also be undertaken lawfully under the LOAC since it aims to reduce civilian casualties rather than eliminate them. However, it is crucial to consider that if a military leader tries to minimize such casualties, they need to utilize precise weapons. Would they require deploying the most discriminating warfare means at their disposal, permitting them to differentiate civilians from combatants, sparing the former while attacking the latter? If drones create an avenue for promises of reduced lethality and increased precision, should military leaders deploy them instead of calling for substitute tactics of air support, or bombardment, or institute ‘boots of the ground?’ It remains unclear whether international law institutes legal duties to states, which own the pertinent advanced technology and utilize such technologies in battlefields. It is crucial to foster understanding of the contours revolving around such legal duties and their substantive and temporal scopes. It would be essential to institute such responsibilities to ensure the effective utilization of drones in areas posing threats to countries, such as the United States, including Iraq and Afghanistan, that harbor al-Qaeda and Taliban extremists. In this sense, the increasing drone usage by the United States in warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan reveals the country’s growing capacity to utilize the technology. It is also increasing the number of drones, which depicts its growing emphasis on leveraging the area to grow its military strength, mainly when targeting high-risk areas.
Drones Promise to Reduce Risks Soldiers, and Civilians Face in Battle Field
The use of drones promises precision-guided technology when engaging in armed conflicts, which are incredibly risk-free for U.S. troops. These result in a significant reduction in military and civilian casualties on the enemy’s side because of improved precision. Drones have changed the relationship between accuracy, distance, and lethality. It is no longer necessary to gain space at accuracy’s expense. In this sense, increased overall accuracy results in probable collateral damage reduction. However, drones also face several limitations, and the initial one revolves around the issue of cost. The initial price tag of military drones is significantly high. There is also the cost of training drone pilots to utilize these weapons and fit the different aircraft with the needed support equipment required for using such advanced weapons systems. Also, a tradeoff exists between weather and the target dynamism. For instance, it is possible to use GPS-based drones, including the Tomahawk missile, in almost all weather situations. However, their usefulness becomes limited when the attack’s target is dynamic as opposed to stationary. Other drones, including those fitted with laser-guided bombs (LGBs), have a higher ability to adjust to the targets’ movements. However, they are only possible to use in specific weather conditions. In this sense, it is essential to note that drones need accurate intelligence to avoid the potential disasters that might emerge due to a lack of accuracy or attacking wrong targets. Thus, the ability to gather intelligence would have significant implications for using drones effectively in warzones.
The American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have depicted these shortcomings after the completion of missions. Instead of encountering regular armies, the U.S. and its allies ended up battling paramilitary terrorist groups and insurgents who cannot differentiate from civilians and have been utilizing civilian locations and civilians to shield and cover from attacks in line with using them as logistical hubs. Guerillas, insurgents, and terrorists have leveraged asymmetric warfare, leading their current weaknesses to transform into strengths. In this form of law-tech attrition war, the U.S. military and technological dominance are negated practically. The extended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan led Coalition forces to lose significant funds, particularly the United States. Battling insurgents who keep shifting between civilian areas and who disguise themselves to resemble civilians, including fighters and night, farmers during the day require continued monitoring and real-time intelligence to differentiate civilians from combatants, targeting the latter while reducing harm to the former. As the U.S. realized it lacked intelligence capabilities. The perception of disparity in force and military dominance between the United States’ armed forces and its allies, and the insurgents had led the two sides to become aware of the implications of the body-bag politics. Also, there are certain actualities associated with asymmetric warfare. These entail fighting enemies shunning open conflicts with their increasingly stronger opponents and, somewhat, direct battling to areas with denser populations to reduce their casualties and subject civilians to harm deliberately. These present challenges to the robust U.S. military revolve around engaging with the foe on its turn, especially in low-tech fights in close establishments.
Drones provide attractive means of overcoming these challenges. The major attraction associated with drones is that they distance troops from injury and considerably force protection. Force protection is adopting preventive measures of ensuring troops avoid hostile actions, critical information, and military facilities and resources. These have played a vital role in the U.S. military policy, especially with the military engagements in Somalia and Kosovo during the 1990s. Tele-operated drones aid in the distance and significantly eliminating their operators from the warzone, providing them maximum protection. Drone pilots can fly their aircraft over Iraq and Afghanistan from ground control bases situated in Langley, Virginia, and Nevada. Also, since these aircraft are unmanned, they do not require frying at high or risk-free altitudes, indicating that they cannot compromise accuracy.
Most debates concerning the idea of force protection revolve around the notion of whether soldiers need to accept increased exposure to risks themselves to allow them to project enemy civilians from injury. If they must do so, it remains unclear on the degree in which they should do so. In this case, force protection reverses the idea of protecting innocent civilians. However, when it comes to drones, force protection and reducing collateral damage are not mutually exclusive for various interrelated reasons. Firstly, drones can fly at lower altitudes instead of fighter jets without subjecting their operators to any injury. Lower attitudes indicate increased capacity for improved accuracy. Secondly, drones are usually armed mostly with PGMs, including Hellfire missiles. This indicates that they realize the dual benefits of precision and greater accuracy, allowing them to carry smaller weapons and reduce lethality areas. Thirdly, drones are capable of enduring in the air for many hours while hovering over their targets. In aerial attacks, which manned aircraft perform, such as helicopters or fighter jets, the pilots are usually over their targets for a relatively short period. In fact, with certain advanced weapons, pilots might not be over their targets physically and might not have visual contact without machines’ help. This does not serve as the case with drones. Drones can hover over their targets, gathering real-time intelligence and information concerning them. This boosts their chances of identifying targets correctly that the emergence of increasingly high-resolution sensors has augmented onboard drones.
Also, drones’ ability to stay with their targets for a long time facilitates a ‘pattern of life analysis. Regarding the case of asymmetric warfare, it is challenging to differentiate between civilians and combatants. This creates a vital military strategy component of terrorists, urban guerrillas, and insurgents. The challenge becomes particularly significant when the issue of dual status or shifting identities, also identified as the ‘farmer by day, fighter by night” phenomenon, becomes apparent. The LOAC clarifies that whereas it might not be possible to target civilians directly, their protection from attacks fades when they participate in hostilities now. Although this notion’s exact content and contours face numerous debates, little doubt becomes apparent that whatever views individuals hold on what entails direct hostility participation leads such participation to justify civilian attacks, which is more comfortable in theory than practice.
The ability of drones to remain with the target closes the gap between practice and theory by facilitating precise targeting at the ideal timeframe. In contrast, the target participates in hostilities directly. Also, remaining with the mark also indicates that drone pilots can select the perfect engagement moment carefully with the target to reduce the chances of inflicting harm to innocent civilians. The concept of ‘targets of opportunity’ and its increased prospects for errors have related purchases when considering drones. Also, drones can engage dynamic targets better at best opportunity, increasing chances of damaging the target critically while reducing collateral damage instead of either ‘fire and forget’ GPS-based and precision-guided munitions manned aerial aircraft.
Since drone pilots are removed from harm’s way, they can fly their aircraft and institute attacks without facing the battlefield’s stresses. The ability of drones to distance pilots from the battleground does not just reduce but eliminates the fear of dying in the field altogether. The pilots can engage targets without facing the increased negative emotions, which soldiers experience while on the battlefield. In this case, the threat of dispassionate killing from a distant location is among the eternal battle cries against drones’ utilization.
Indeed, the specter of dispassionate killing from afar has been one of the persistent battle cries against the use of drones. Using drones is associated with creating a “cubical warriors’ image with the mentality of a PlayStation involved in a ‘push button killing’ in distant lands of images using their screens. These lead them to lose sight of their targets’ humanity, whom drone plots colloquially refer to as ‘squirters,’ while spending time with their friends and family having dinner or engaging in other fun activities. This serves as a significant challenge surrounding the new way of war by Americans. Arguments exist that drones make killing easy. Nonetheless, the pattern-of-life analysis and flying over the targets indicate that drone operators spend an increased amount of time with their targets rather than fighter pilots bore before and after instituting an attack. Fighter pilots do not usually see the real damage their missiles or bombs cause while drone pilots do. This form of ‘voyeuristic intimacy’ leads drone pilots, often without their knowledge, to develop PTSD.
Undertaking battleground aerial strikes using drones provides real-time intelligence gathering and situation awareness. Also, as detailed above, the traits associated with drones offer a strong possibility of reviewing drones’ operations in real-time and legally. Military lawyers might review the images the drones send in and evaluate the attack based on LOAC rules. Besides, since the drone pilots are removed from harm’s way and the virtually unceasing drone sky presence, time is not of significant essence as it was initially. Layers get the opportunity of assessing the situation coolly, require additional information when needed, revisit data, and consult their manuals without losing the chances of hitting a target either instantly or in the future. After undertaking the attack, drones might provide significant accountability. Their powerful cameras and sensors can record the scene of the attack. If reserved and revised during a later debriefing, the recording can facilitate ex-post review in a way not probable in typical combat activities. Also, individual human rights activists who emphasize taking advantage of drones to determine human rights violations in regions such as Syria have invoked drones’ capacity to record incidents and capture images without interference for an extended period. Such activities have led to declined casualty numbers from collateral damage by using drones to institute attacks instead of using alternative methods and means of warfare.
It is impossible to gain the actual numbers of civilian casualties in different drone campaigns, which the United States has launched starting the mid-2000s. The challenge is identifying and ascertaining the status of those who die from attacks as civilians or combatants, which is subject to dispute and controversy. However, the numbers that three significantly authentic and credible sources, which follow drone attacks in Pakistan, approximate the number of civilians who die from such attacks to range from 5.7% to 25.7% of overall deaths resulting from the strikes. The sources also acknowledge the idea that civilian deaths have declined considerably in recent years. Regarding the sources, they estimate that Pakistani drone attacks between 2012 and 2013 saw civilian casualties decline to between 2% and 3%. However, the figures do not depict nominal civilian death rates, which they emphasize. Firstly, under the principle of proportionality by LOAC, the vital question regarding collateral damage should emphasize whether it is ‘extensive’ or ‘excessive. However, it is critical to avoid confusing the two terms while they are not interchangeable. Damage or injury to non-combatants might be exceedingly extensive without being extreme since the anticipated military advantage is of significant importance.
Thus, the number of dead or injured civilians is inadequate in and of itself when determining whether attacks are disproportionate. Instead, it is essential to evaluate the numbers against the military’s advantage, which is reasonably expected to emanate from the attack. Secondly, it is also vital to consider the existing alternatives. Whereas civilian death rate estimates in previous wars differ significantly, a conservative approximation is that averagely, around half of deaths that emanate from war affect civilians, the percentage of war-related deaths that affect civilians remain at approximately 50% between centuries. Whatever the actual numbers, it becomes evident that the death ratio of civilians in prior wars utilizing warfare methods, which are less discriminating than drones, was considerably higher as opposed to the highest approximated death rates, which emanate from the drone attacks by American troops in countries, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. In this sense, some stipulate that drones might serve as the worst warfare forms in the world’s history, aside from others.
The last argument supporting drones as a warfare means revolves around their cost-effectiveness. Drones usually come with considerably lower initial price tags, unlike the case of fighter jets. The flight hour cost for drones is lower compared to that of fighter jets. Also, the training drone pilots receive is significantly less than those piloting fighter planes. However, it is also essential to realize that utilizing drones also come with various pragmatic challenges. Although it seems human to remove troops from harm’s way and minimizing civilian casualties, this drone attribute reduces the costs of physically participating in a war, leading it to become politically acceptable as a means of engaging in military activities. Here, wars might become increasingly frequent, and combat operations’ commencement might result in reduced incentives for ending the violence. With fewer people returning home dead, a government might realize increased support for military activities. In this case, the reduced war costs might lead countries, particularly those owning the technology, to use force as a measure that needs consideration equivalent to nonviolent substitutes, including economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts, rather than as a last resort.
The promise drones offering increased precision and accuracy by drones create anticipations that are both dangerous and unrealistic. Some claim that precision-guided munitions might lead to great expectations, including perfect execution, zero casualties, and entirely flawless. Nonetheless, such kinds of anticipations are unrealistic since it is possible to make mistakes. Issues such as information overload, flawed intelligence, active defensive countermeasures prospective targets make, human errors, and various technological malfunctions might result in missing the intended target. These might also lead to the hitting of wrong targets, resulting in excessive civilian lives’ loss.
Whereas mistakes serve as unexpected parts of any war’s actuality, which are judged against the basis of accuracy, they appear morally and politically unacceptable. On the one hand, precision and accuracy might encourage the extension of missions, undertaking attacks in areas with dense civilian populations or regions that the LOAC protects against attacks. These might not have occurred, although they would end up increasing the chances of potential mistakes for the promise of accuracy. On the other hand, critics and adversaries might accept such collateral damages resulting from errors, claiming that precision technology should indicate intentional hitting of a target while intending to harm.
Drones, such as PGMs, might reduce the chances of making mistakes. However, they would make each mistake increasingly costly, particularly the capacity of continuing with efficient military operations and the implications on civilian populations where bombing occurs. Also, the very idea of that precision and accuracy might mean eradicating collateral damage, which might paradoxically lead to increased incentives for terrorists and insurgents in utilizing civilians as human shields and blue the difference between themselves and the civilians surrounding them. Indeed, the state of warfare has witnessed strategic and tactical paradigm shifts in this direction. For instance, weaker troops avoid clashing openly and directly fighting urban areas with massive populations to reduce insurgent casualties. They also do so to deter more vital forces from attacking authentic targets while exposing civilians deliberately to harm, anticipating that it will serve as a propaganda tool against the sturdier troops if harm materializes.
The question of military honor also exists in the event of the usage of drone attacks. For a long time, honor has been interlinked with embarking on weapons, which increase or create distance between troops of distinct armies. In this case, distancing weapons lead questions to arise regarding soldiers’ honor in killing others from a distance and those murdered from a distance by unidentified, cowardly enemies, mainly when foes utilize high-tech weapons. These weapons have played a significant role in the post-heroic military age, whereby weapons’ material realities trump the willpower of heroes and a heroic warrior’s cult. It also facilitates in instrumentalization of war via technology. Hence, even acknowledging honor as an individual and social measure of worth, the concerns apparent are not new or unique to just drones. Overall, however, it is true that the utilization of drones in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has benefited the U.S. military capability in overcoming threats from peers. The technology is crucial to reducing the number of U.S. troops who die in battlegrounds and the civilians who die from such attacks. Also, drone technology has been instrumental in allowing the U.S. to target combatants more precisely than using manned aircraft. It is possible to learn enemy patterns due to drones’ ability to survey combatants for extended periods. In this sense, the continued use of drones by the United States in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars is justifiable owing to the immense benefits it brings instead of drawbacks, particularly in terms of cost-effectiveness, reduced civilian casualties, and ability to study enemies better before instituting attacks.
Duty to Effective Application of Drone Technology in Warfare
To leverage drone technology capability in handling near-peer threats from countries, such as Afghanistan or Iraq, the U.S. military should devise effective ways of using them in less discriminatory means. For instance, military commanders might be required to engage in the planning of operations against terrorists in densely populated urban centers. Unluckily, such processes might lead to collateral damages, such as injuring civilians, losing civilian lives, or even damaging civilian property. Irrespective of such harms, the attacks might be undertaken lawfully while following the LOAC since it aims to reduce civilian casualties rather than eradicate them. However, if commanders try to mitigate those kinds of deaths, questions arise about whether they would need to deploy precise weapons in their arsenals. Concerns also arise as to whether they should consider deploying the most discriminating warfare means at their disposal, allowing them to differentiate civilians from combatants and attack the latter while sparing the former. If drones provide the promise of minimized lethality and improved precision, should commanders not deploy them with the less discriminatory approach. Moreover, if this serves as the case, would there be a duty for states to investigate, manufacture, procure, and implement the ideal technology while ensuring their armies can access them.
Whereas no treaties exist that mostly specialize with drones in armed conflict, and no norms require drones, cardinal principles of LOAC can facilitate deriving such a duty. It requires that interpretations be warranted if states acknowledge that drones provide a probability of a more human means of engaging in war by merging accurate and remote utilization of force and minimizing lethality among innocent civilians and friendly parties. In this sense, it is crucial to institute additional challenges that would receive careful consideration in creating and explaining the obligation to utilize drones on the battlegrounds.
In light of the effective utilization of precision-guided munitions during Operation Allied Force and Operation Desert Storm, several scholars researched whether a legal duty needing the utilization of such weapons exists in international law. Their conclusions claimed that such an obligation is nonexistent de lege lata, meaning under the present international law norms. Although operators and planners choosing between ‘dumb’ bombs and laser-guided ordnance presently now more than ever should emphasize collateral damage, meaning no legal obligation exists for utilizing PGMs. The same can also apply to the usage of armed drones in the battleground. Until today, no treaty exists, which addresses explicitly using drones in armed conflicts. It can also not be said that customary norms exist requiring the usage of drones. No good relevant practice by states on the issue and the existing way remains inconsistent and does not reflect with sufficient density based on the extent, uniformity, and representativeness. It also does not amount to the degree of extended and virtually consistent practice. Again, no opinio juris exists concerning the duty of utilizing drones as a warfare mechanism. Hence, the primary challenging issue revolves around the obligation of using drones in the battleground ought to exist. It is crucial to determine the probable contours associated with such a form of obligation if it exists.
Drones provide an avenue for aerial attacks, which are more precise and accurate against the set military targets while less lethal to civilians. However, despite arguing that a particular weapon would result in an attack, that would be more accurate. For instance, it is crucial to realize that faulty intelligence might lead to a precise strike, which hits the wrong target. Nonetheless, such serves as the case with all methods and means of warfare. Also, drones might offer, at least potentially, more robust and significant accuracy and minimal lethality coupled with increased accountability. Drones might serve as the most human means of engaging in warfare. Their utilization on the battleground can boost protections to which distinct objects and persons are entitled based on international humanitarian law requirements. It leads to a compelling case for their utilization on the battleground. However, concerns arise as to whether drones should be utilized rather than the traditional and less-precise alternative methods and means of warfare. It is also worth considering that if drones serve as the worst warfare form, aside from all others, should military commanders utilize them over the others.
These are among the critical challenges related to the institution of wide-reaching legal requirements for states to utilize drones as the weapon of choice when engaging in war. The exact precision and accuracy of drones’ use might not be needed or even appropriate for all situations. When targets serve as enemy troops spread across a broad area where it is impossible to encounter civilians, pinpoint accuracy is not a requirement under LOAC. Even in the case of urban settings, where collateral damage might be an ideal consideration legally, morally, and politically, certain circumstances might emerge under which the utilization of unguided weapons might be the most outstanding, from both a tactical perspective and in reducing collateral damage, to the utilization of precision-guided munitions.
Even if it were possible to define and capture the scenarios accurately to utilize drones, preferably to existing alternatives, numerous challenges remain. Whereas drone technology is increasing rapidly, the current estimates lie between 75 and 87 countries with drone technology. Around 26 percent of these have systems, which are already presently armed. Not all states have the right technology and ability to operate drones or the financial capabilities and resources needed to have a fleet of unmanned aircraft, meaning not all countries can access drones. In such situations, instituting obligations for utilizing drones might hinder some nations from engaging in battles even for self-defense purposes or severely curtailing their options. Such governments might also be precluded from adhering to the applicable international law rules. As such, these challenges have led several scholars to consider the possibility of introducing differential rules or normative relativism to the LOAC, imposing distinct normative obligations on diverse states depending on their capabilities.
From the perspective of various experts, the notion of collating obligations with capabilities and resources, and the affiliated idea of common-but-differentiated duties, is a broadly adopted norm in environmental law and international trade. However, its possible incorporation into LOAC is controversial. LOAC revolves around the ideas of sovereign equality, the principle of the moral equality of combatants or parity principle, and the rejection of tradeoff as a condition for compliance. This has always applied equally to diverse belligerent states and people based on civilians or combatants’ status. Attempts have been made to deviate from this generality and university in using LOAC, branded as “lawfare” and “double standards,” by contrast reprimanded as serving the interest of limited powerful nations at the expense of weaker countries. In this case, it appears improbable that any alterations to LOAC norms’ universality might change the standards by a threat or via more difficult or less specific customary international law’s processes (legislative track). Examining the institution of distinct obligations relating to the utilization of precision-guided munitions, the deployment of differential legislative programs that apply different rules explicitly to diversely situated parties or exempts discharges weaker parties from compliance with various humanitarian duties, or institutes heightened obligations on wealthier nations is politically improbable. If this serves as the case for precision-guided munitions, it can also apply to drones. The far-reaching resistance to the adoption of drones worldwide poses challenges in realizing any sufficient progress in instituting explicitly legal duty to these aerial platforms via legislative processes. Some are requiring the United States to lead the efforts to draft an international agreement, which would regulate the utilization of drones. Nonetheless, those not willing to band drones instantly seek to limit their utilization stringently by raising the specter of drone technologies’ proliferation among other nations and non-state actors, which would provide the United States with an incentive for leading the way. Presently, no talks exist concerning the need for instituting an affirmative duty to the usage of drones’ circumstances. Such conversations appear politically probable as soon as possible.
An ideal means of instituting differential norms into LOAC comprise the interpretive track. It entails adopting the substantive material of current rules and norms and connecting it to distinct capabilities and circumstances of relevant, diverse states. This might be exceedingly probable from the perspective of such LOAC standards, which is the same case as hindering ‘additional’ harm to civilians or current duty for considering all the reasonable precautions when choosing the methods or means of attack to reduce incidental civilian life’s loss. In this case, it is essential to realize that instituting the proportionality principle is highly dependent on context, interpretation, and the establishment of sub-codes of rules that apply to specific situations. These are vulnerable to considerations of capabilities, relative power, and resources, potentially implicating the standards’ deployment to distinctly situated parties.
Construing standards, including those associated with proportionality or the avoidance principle, paves the way for considering the resources and capabilities for entering the equation. Parties to armed conflicts might possess munitions, weapons, and delivery modes that can facilitate greater targeting than those their adversaries have. These might be subject to increased responsibility levels concerning the soldiers of an enemy and, most importantly, to innocent civilians.
Such kinds of differential interpretation might revolve around more nuanced comprehensions of the notion of accountability. Armed conflicts usually result in instances of both positive and negative responsibilities. Hence, when insurgents utilize civilians as human shields when attacks happen, they should acknowledge civilians’ deaths irrespective of whether or not the number of those who die is proportionate to the anticipated military advantage. The armies should focus on their accountabilities in the same vein, such as acting in positive and affirmative means to reduce collateral damage and avoid harmful repercussions to innocent civilians. This form of responsibility does not just serve as a moral issue. It is instituted into LOAC via the complementary proportionality and avoidance principles. The proportionality principle reveals that expected military acts contribute to incidental civilian life’s loss, damage to civilian property, harm to civilians, or a combination of the forces that might be excessive based on the direct and concrete military advantage expected, which should be suspended or canceled.
The emphasis of proportionality on excessive harm depicts that LOAC acknowledges that several civilian casualties might be due to unavoidable war. However, the principle of avoidance, which entails taking precautions, institutes confirmative duty on military planners to take all the precautions necessary to choose the methods and means of attack. They should avoid and minimize incidental civilian life’s loss, injure civilians, or damage civilian objects. The avoidance principle entails that it is insufficient to intend to murder civilians while attacking authentic targets. Instead, affirmative and deliberate effort should be made to avoid harming them. Thus, military commanders should exercise causation when choosing their targets and matching their tactics and weapons to utilize against the targets. Hence, even when the proportionality calculus reveals that the probable collateral damage might not be excessive when likened to expected military objectives during an attack, LOAC requires soldiers to take accountability of exercise precautions. These precautions should be feasible to aid in reducing the otherwise proportionate damage to civilians. Irrespective of whatever else that form of obligation might mean, it should come first without concern for proportionality calculations.
In the case of the U.S., it is probable to harness the ideas of legal and moral accountability when it comes to the drones’ warfare issue. In accepting drones can provide the probability of a more precise and accurate attack against the targeted parties and reduce harm toward civilians, it would be possible to make a strong case that their utilization in the battlefield would be in line with the notion of accountability to adopt positive measures to minimize harm to civilians during a war. Also, this might serve as the case from both a legal and moral standpoint regarding armed conflicts. In this case, even without treaties or customary international law norms, which specifically deal with drones, it would be possible to derive a duty for using drones in the battleground from the standpoint of basic LOAC principles.
Scope of Obligation in Using Drones in Warfare
In arguing that LOAC might be possible to interpret as instituting a duty for utilizing drones in the battleground (and ought to comprise such responsibility in any event), it is crucial to embark on additional research. In this sense, acknowledging the presence of that form either of an obligation, de lege ferenda, or as de lege lata, it is essential to define sufficient scope associated with that kind of a commitment. Unluckily, the precise criteria for instituting an affirmative duty to utilize drones might prove significantly challenging in setting out and outlining in advance. Using drones in this sense should emphasize recognizing and defending it as a positive affirmative duty. It is a duty to utilize a weapon instead of avoiding doing so. Thus, by extension, it is a duty to research, develop, acquire, and adopt a weapon instead of avoiding it. It is also precisely this strong character of the duty, which would impose challenges in capturing and defining the effective utilization of drones in warfare.
Research already notes that when targets of the enemy are spread over a vast geographical area that does not have civilians, in situations that do not pose the threat of collateral damage, LOAC does not require the need for pinpointing accuracy. Furthermore, even when it comes to urban areas, which might have higher incidences of experiencing collateral damage, there might be situations in which the utilization of unguided weapons might be ideal from a tactical standpoint and to aid in reducing collateral damage, over the usage of munitions guided by precision. Here, it is essential to note that challenges emerge when distinguishing between the two circumstances, especially in the abstract. These challenges depict that the answer lies in need for fashioning via the interpretive tack instead of through the legislative standpoint, especially during the initial phases. As opposed to delineating the delineations of the need for utilizing drones, an ideal approach would be to emphasize the problem on a case-by-case basis. This approach would aid in building experience while going along and in accumulating practice. This form of a casuistic method would also indicate that again, incredibly initially, questions regarding the duty of utilizing drones and the abuses of such duty have minimal chances of emerging in the perspective of enforcing international criminal legal frameworks if only due to the obligation’s scope and its extensive contours remain ill-defined and uncertain. This is particularly true if states acknowledge that identifiable obligation cores exist. The real practice of states in line with international reports by authentic institutions that monitor armed conflicts worldwide and the chances of invoking the duty of utilizing drones as part of country accountability challenge might prove increasingly hospitable avenues for additional clarifications of obligation scope. These would facilitate determining countries’ capacity, such as the U.S., in drone usage by their military.
An extra challenge revolving around the imposition of drones’ usage revolves around recognizing states that might be subject to such duties. In case the obligation is to be linked and correlated with capabilities, it would be crucial to identify the qualifications, which would be relevant for binding commitments. In this sense, concerns arise as to these should be considered in the context of financial, military, or technological capabilities. Accountabilities, which are connected to capabilities, actually mean, if anything, nations that lack these forms of capabilities might not bear similar obligations of using drones. The U.S. has financial, military, and technological capabilities, which sets it apart from other countries regarding deploying armed drones. It is crucial to consider its capabilities when determining its scope of obligation in drone warfare.
Nonetheless, concerns arise about what should be made of countries with the technological and financial abilities to develop, manufacture, and acquire drones, although they opt not to do so. Should policy reasons surrounding their choices remain relevant? In other words, would it matter it nations prefer not to develop drone technology since they object to the utilization of such weapons, and since they prefer to ensure their military spending remain low, or because they do not expect participating in global conflict, or because they choose to direct their resources in other areas, whether military or civilian? Would not an institution of a duty to utilize drones provide states with incentives for diverting their resources from production, development, procurement, and research of such aerial platforms to other warfare means, mainly to avoid such legal requirements. On the other hand, if states find obligations for utilizing drones to exist under the LOAC principles or based on alternative perspectives, it might exist legally. To what extent would the obligation reach. If the obligations for utilizing drones exist, must they not extend to developing, procuring, or manufacturing such weapons logically? Also, if obligations for utilizing drones exist, if they apply to different states distinctly depending on their capabilities, and if states acknowledge that such duties revolve around the idea of drones providing less lethal and more precise means of warfare, should international law consider instituting outcome obligation on countries possessing drone technology in sharing the technology with the ones that do not? After all, if drones can make warfare more human, does not their precise proliferation threaten to increase the number of armed conflicts in the world.
Also, concerns emerge on what of the duty of utilizing drones notwithstanding they are incapable of being used in particular situations, primarily due to the countermeasures, which defenders might employ, including jamming radio signals between drones and operators, or because of insufficient human resource supply required for flying a sufficient number of drones? During such situations, should the attacking troops abandon (mostly temporarily) their attack plans, leading the enemy to be immune from attacks, or can they result in alternative methods and means of warfare, such as using unguided bombs or manned aircraft? These kinds of issues characterize the obligation of utilizing drones. However, since many countries still lack such technology, the U.S. military can leverage this technology due to its adequate financial and military resources to improve its warfare capability in this field.
To a broader extent, the issues that become apparent here result from a fundamental conundrum. Whereas the LOAC principles institute both positive and negative obligations on parties to armed conflicts, based on the existing state of rules surrounding weapons, the responsibilities are mostly devised as negative ones. The predominant principle surrounding the weapons systems revolves around avoiding unnecessary suffering and superfluous injury. From this perspective, it is crucial to focus on imposing obligations surrounding the acquisition, development, or adoption of new weapons to determine if the institution of new weapons would be possible to prohibit under international law. However, the duty is ancillary to the fundamental restrictions of firearms, which result in unnecessary suffering. The burden of utilizing drones should emphasize a positive, affirmative commitment. It entails the duty of using weapons as opposed to refraining from doing so. Here, key technology leaders in the world, such as the United States, have a duty to study, develop, acquire, and adopt weapons instead of avoiding doing so. This strong character of the responsibility would make it easier to capture and define drones’ careful development, particularly in high-risk areas, which pose threats to states’ sovereignty, such as the U.S., a primary target attack state by terrorist groups and insurgents. In this sense, the utilization of drones in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars has demonstrated that the technology can improve the U.S. military and capability to counter such threats more effectively than when it utilizes manned technologies fighter jets or helicopters for warfare.
In conclusion, the technological advancements the world has realized in recent years have seen pilotless aircraft become increasingly common and adopted as the preferred tools for engaging in warfare by initiating armed attacks and undertaking surveillance. Since the emergence of the first remotely operated aircraft in the 1990s, which the U.S. used for surveillance purposes, cost reductions and technological advances have led to increased drone usage for diverse purposes, such as filming, recreation, delivering essential medications in remote areas, and monitoring conservation. Advancements in drone technology have seen the military adopt the innovation to institute attacks using drones for Iraq/Afghanistan, which have affected the U.S. military and capability to handle a near-peer threat. This is particularly the case owing to its increased armed drones arsenal in recent years and the massive attacks it has initiated in different countries to neutralize threats from terrorist groups and insurgents. The adoption of drone technology for armed strikes has seen the U.S. reduce the risks that soldiers and civilians face on the battlefield while serving as an addition to increased military capability in the battleground. Also, even with the increasing need for using drones in warfare, a need has arisen for the U.S. to honor the duty of practical application of drone technology when launching attacks to ensure they are established where appropriate. Also, the scope of obligation is crucial to emphasize when utilizing drones in warfare. The area is an area of concern, particularly for the U.S. due to its military, financial, and technological capabilities over other countries. In this perspective, since the U.S. used drones in both Iraq/Afghanistan wars, it has grown its adoption of the technology to improve its military capability, which is crucial to combat peer threats in the future.
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of State Sovereignty.” Pakistan Journal of History and Culture 38, no. 2 (2017): 187-206.
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Dowd, Alan W. “Drone wars: Risks and warnings.” Parameters 42, no. 4/1 (2012): 7.
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Gregory, Derek. “From a view to a kill: Drones and late modern war.” Theory, culture &
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Gusterson, Hugh. Drone: Remote control warfare. MIT Press, 2016.
Haytock, Jennifer. “Reframing War Stories: Multivoiced Novels of the Wars in Iraq and
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Iftikhar, Aatif, and Zubair Shafiq. “Portrayal of the Drone Attacks during Republican and
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conceptions of territory.” Territory, Politics, Governance 5, no. 2 (2017): 207-221.
McDonnell, Thomas Michael. “Rule of Law in the Age of the Drone: Requiring
Transparency and Disqualifying Clandestine Actors-The CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command.” U. Miami L. Rev. 72 (2017): 34.
Osinga, Frans PB, and Mark P. Roorda. “From Douhet to drones, air warfare, and the
evolution of targeting.” In Targeting: the challenges of modern warfare, pp. 27-76. TMC Asser Press, The Hague, 2016.
Rossiter, Ash. “Drone usage by militant groups: exploring variation in adoption.” Defense
& Security Analysis 34, no. 2 (2018): 113-126.
Schulte, Paul. “Future war: AI, drones, terrorism and counterterror.” In Handbook of
Terrorism and Counter Terrorism Post 9/11. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2019.
Sehrawat, Vivek. “Legal status of drones under LOAC and international law.” Penn St. JL
& Int’l Aff. 5 (2017): 164.
Wall, Tyler, and Torin Monahan. “Surveillance and violence from afar: The politics of
drones and liminal security-scapes.” Theoretical criminology 15, no. 3 (2011): 239-254.
 Katharine Hall Kindervater, “Drone strikes, ephemeral sovereignty, and changing conceptions of territory,” Territory, Politics, Governance 5, no. 2 (2017), 207.
 Ash Rossiter, “Drone usage by militant groups: exploring variation in adoption,” Defense & Security Analysis 34, no. 2 (2018), 114.
 Vivek Sehrawat, “Legal status of drones under LOAC and international law,” Penn St. JL & Int’l Aff. 5 (2017), 164.
 Paul Schulte, “Future war: AI, drones, terrorism, and counterterror,” In Handbook of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism Post 9/11, (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2019), 34.
 Thomas Michael McDonnell, “Rule of Law in the Age of the Drone: Requiring Transparency and Disqualifying Clandestine Actors-The CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command,” U. Miami L. Rev. 72 (2017), 34.
 Frans PB Osinga and Mark P. Roorda, “From Douhet to drones, air warfare, and the evolution of targeting.” In Targeting: the challenges of modern warfare, pp. 27-76. TMC (Asser Press, The Hague, 2016), 27.
 David A. Jaeger, and Zahra Siddique, “Are drone strikes effective in Afghanistan and Pakistan? On the dynamics of violence between the United States and the Taliban,” CESifo Economic Studies 64, no. 4 (2018), 667.
 Aatif Iftikhar, and Zubair Shafiq, “Portrayal of the Drone Attacks during Republican and Democratic Regimes: A Comparative Analysis of Daily Dawn and The New York Times,” Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities (1994-7046) 27, no. 2 (2019), 54.
 Ibid, 56.
 Ibid, 67.
 Jennifer Haytock, “Reframing War Stories: Multivoiced Novels of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 63, no. 2 (2017), 336.
 Lorraine Bayard de Volo, “Unmanned? Gender recalibrations and the rise of drone warfare,” Politics & Gender 12, no, 1 (2016), 50.
 Alan W. Dowd, “Drone wars: Risks and warnings,” Parameters 42, no. 4/1 (2012), 7.
 Ibid, 9.
 Derek Gregory, “From a view to a kill: Drones and late modern war,” Theory, culture & society 28, no. 7-8, (2011), 118.
 Hugh Gusterson, Drone: Remote control warfare, (MIT Press, 2016), 56.
 Alex Edney‐Browne, “The Psychosocial Effects of Drone Violence: Social Isolation, Self‐Objectification, and Depoliticization,” Political Psychology 40, no. 6 (2019), 1341.
 Susan Breau and Marie Aronsson, “Drone attacks, international law, and the recording of civilian casualties of armed conflict,” Suffolk Transnat’l L. Rev. 35 (2012), 255.
 Shahid Ali and Amjad Abbas Khan, “Drone Strikes, Logic of Self-defense and Violation of State Sovereignty,” Pakistan Journal of History and Culture 38, no. 2 (2017), 190.
 Mélanie De Groof, “Death from the Sky: International Legal and Practical Issues on the Use of Armed Drones.” In Drones and Unmanned Aerial Systems, pp. 131-156. (Springer, Cham, 2016), 132.
 Tyler Wall and Torin Monahan, “Surveillance and violence from afar, The politics of drones and liminal security-scapes,” Theoretical Criminology 15, no. 3 (2011), 240.
 Ibid. 241.
 Thomas Michael McDonnell, “Rule of Law in the Age of the Drone: Requiring Transparency and Disqualifying Clandestine Actors-The CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command,” U. Miami L. Rev. 72 (2017), 34.
 Frans PB Osinga and Mark P. Roorda, “From Douhet to drones, air warfare, and the evolution of targeting.” In Targeting: the challenges of modern warfare, pp. 27-76. TMC (Asser Press, The Hague, 2016), 30.
 Ash Rossiter, “Drone usage by militant groups: exploring variation in adoption,” Defense & Security Analysis 34, no. 2 (2018), 114.
 Paul Schulte, “Future war: AI, drones, terrorism, and counterterror,” In Handbook of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism Post 9/11, (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2019), 43.
 Katharine Hall Kindervater, “Drone strikes, ephemeral sovereignty, and changing conceptions of territory,” Territory, Politics, Governance 5, no. 2 (2017), 208.
 David A. Jaeger, and Zahra Siddique, “Are drone strikes effective in Afghanistan and Pakistan? On the dynamics of violence between the United States and the Taliban,” CESifo Economic Studies 64, no. 4 (2018), 670.
 Tyler Wall and Torin Monahan, “Surveillance and violence from afar, The politics of drones and liminal security-scapes,” Theoretical Criminology 15, no. 3 (2011), 241.
 Shahid Ali and Amjad Abbas Khan, “Drone Strikes, Logic of Self-defense and Violation of State Sovereignty,” Pakistan Journal of History and Culture 38, no. 2 (2017), 191.
 Vivek Sehrawat, “Legal status of drones under LOAC and international law,” Penn St. JL & Int’l Aff. 5 (2017), 164.
 Ibid 165.
 Derek Gregory, “From a view to a kill: Drones and late modern war,” Theory, culture & society 28, no. 7-8, (2011), 190.
 Hugh Gusterson, Drone: Remote control warfare, (MIT Press, 2016), 43.
 Alan W. Dowd, “Drone wars: Risks and warnings,” Parameters 42, no. 4/1 (2012), 7.
 Lorraine Bayard de Volo, “Unmanned? Gender recalibrations and the rise of drone warfare,” Politics & Gender 12, no, 1 (2016), 53.
 Susan Breau and Marie Aronsson, “Drone attacks, international law, and the recording of civilian casualties of armed conflict,” Suffolk Tr