The bureaucratization of war: moral challenges exemplified by the covert lethal drone

Ethics and Global Politics 6 (4):245-260 (2013)
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This article interrogates the bureaucratization of war, incarnate in the covert lethal drone. Bureaucracies are criticized typically for their complexity, inefficiency, and inflexibility. This article is concerned with their moral indifference. It explores killing, which is so highly administered, so morally remote, and of such scale, that we acknowledge a covert lethal program. This is a bureaucratized program of assassination in contravention of critical human rights. In this article, this program is seen to compromise the advance of global justice. Moreover, the bureaucratization of lethal force is seen to dissolve democratic ideals from within. The bureaucracy isolates the citizens from lethal force applied in their name. People are killed, in the name of the State, but without conspicuous justification, or judicial review, and without informed public debate. This article gives an account of the risk associated with the bureaucratization of the State’s lethal power. Exemplified by the covert drone, this is power with formidable reach. It is power as well, which requires great moral sensitivity. Considering the drone program, this article identifies challenges, which will become more prominent and pressing, as technology advances

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Richard Adams
University of New South Wales


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