The legal and ethical implications of drone warfare

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24 Scopus citations


This article examines whether American drone-based targeted killing program represents a fundamentally new challenge to the traditional legal and ethical standards of armed conflict. It argues that the novelty of drones flows less from the technology itself than from the Obama administration’s articulation of a presumptive right of anticipatory self-defense, which allows it to strike anywhere in the world where al Qaeda and its allies are present. It highlights five new legal and ethical dimensions to the Obama administration’s drones policy, all of which may lower the traditional barriers to the use of force if other actors begin to follow contemporary American practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-126
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Human Rights
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 17 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


  • Drones
  • Ethics
  • International conflict
  • Law
  • USA


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