Making Drones to Kill Civilians: Is it Ethical?

Journal of Business Ethics 147 (1):81-93 (2018)
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A drone industry has emerged in the US, initially funded almost exclusively for military applications. There are now also other uses both governmental and commercial. Many military drones are still being made, however, especially for surveillance and targeted killings. Regarding the latter, this essay calls into question their legality and morality. It recognizes that the issues are complex and controversial, but less so as to the killing of non-combatant civilians. The government using drones for targeted killings maintains secrecy and appeals to non-traditional justifications. Most scholars who assess these killer drone practices support citizen immunity, either by favoring a modified just war theory that prioritizes civilians’ right to life or by challenging official deviations from applicable laws. They accordingly declare such killing immoral if not a war crime. The manufacturers of these killer drones are not themselves the killers, but they are abetters, i.e., sine qua non facilitators. So, I argue that any company concerned about its corporate social responsibility should cease manufacturing them.
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Archival date: 2017-07-29
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