The (Benevolent) Eye in the Sky: Just War Theory and the Ethics of Drone Warfare

By: Carly Kabot

April 28, 2022

Spring 2022 Student Symposium: REWA Minors

The Christian philosophy of just war theory (JWT) can guide U.S. policymakers in creating a more ethical approach to drone warfare. Drone warfare has been heavily criticized for pushing the boundaries of ethics, freedom, and security and sparks discussions on sovereignty, human rights, bodily autonomy, international law, and interreligious dialogue. While drone warfare is regularly justified as an effective military tool, the high civilian casualties and psychological toll on communities should compel policymakers to reassess the capabilities of such asymmetric warfare in securing objectives abroad. By applying JWT to advanced military technologies like drones, leaders can better hold themselves and the international community to a higher ethical standard.


Daniel Brunstetter and Megan Braun. “The Implications of Drones on the Just War Tradition.” Ethics & International Affairs 25:3 (Fall 2011): 337-358

Kenneth R Himes, Drones and the Ethics of Targeted Killing (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015).

Lauren Kahn. “How Ukraine Is Using Drones against Russia.” Council on Foreign Relations, March 2, 2022.

Ted Olsen. “Drones Have Changed the Moral Calculus for War.” Christianity Today, Quick to Listen podcast, Episode 281; September 17, 2021.

The Civilian Impact Of Drones Unexamined Costs Unanswered Questions Citation.” Joint report published by the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School and the Center for Civilians in Conflict (2012).

Peter Bergen, Melissa Salyk-Virk, and David Sterman. “Who has What: Countries Developing Armed Drones.” From the World of Drones database, International Security Program, New America.

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