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This excellent report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. The struggle against Islamic extremism, which manifested in two long-term wars within Afghanistan and Iraq, simultaneously incited growth of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry dominated by the United States. Initially developed as reconnaissance and surveillance assets, UAVs quickly developed armed capabilities exploiting their stand-off reach and long-loiter times, and became preferred tools for targeted killings.
This study contributes to the growing discussion regarding the employment of weaponized UAVs, specifically when executing targeted killings outside designated combat zones. As the dominant proprietor of UAVs, the United States inadvertently established precedence for their employment resulting in significant, future political and military ramifications. The primary question within the study is, what are the long-term implications of the US policy on targeted killing of individuals, identified as threats to national security, by UAVs outside a theater of operations or within sovereign nations with which it is not at war?
This study proposes the way in which the United States currently employs UAVs in targeted killings is inadequately addressed in international law and difficult to justify on moral grounds. More importantly, US employment of UAVs risks establishing negative international precedents on killing outside a theater of operations as other nations develop UAV programs. To evaluate the contemporary practice of UAV targeted killings and reveal long-term effects, the study reviews Just War Theory and International Humanitarian Law / Law of Armed Conflict. Juxtaposed against these moral and legal frameworks, the study summarizes US legal justifications vindicating targeted killings by UAVs and presents the opposing legal arguments against the practice posited by the international community. To highlight the dangers of an emerging military precedence and public aversion to a weapons technology considered against the norms of war, this monograph uses case-study methodology to examine unrestricted submarine warfare during the interwar period, and post-World War II nuclear nonproliferation. Analysis of each case against the contemporary practice of UAV targeted killing reveals historical efforts to control a weapons technology, and exposes strengths and weaknesses applicable to future UAV employment control and nonproliferation efforts.
This study suggests that targeted killings by UAVs are not supported under Just War Theory; remain a contentious legal issue under international law; and result in a dangerous precedent for future conflicts. The greater long-term effect being establishment of a belief that, while evoking the right of self-defense and regardless of the weapons technology employed, states may disregard the norms of international law to initiate a preemptive attack. If the United States, as the current leader in UAV technologies, fails to shape efforts inhibiting acceptance of this precedent within the international norms of war, it risks losing a position of advantage and courts calamity in the future.