On Democracies and Drones

In their article “Killer drones: The ‘silver bullet’ of democratic warfare?“, recently published in Security Dialogue, ICRAC’s Niklas Schoernig and Frank Sauer examine some of the questions raised by democracies relying on unmanned systems. The abstract reads as follows:

This article sets out to probe the peculiar nexus between democracy and the military use of unmanned systems. To this end, it draws on a critical, ‘antinomic’ reading of democratic peace theory. Tying into the theoretical scope of research conducted within the democratic distinctiveness programme that emerged out of the democratic peace debate, this entails fathoming out the ways in which democracies are distinct from other regime types. It includes acknowledging that democracies deal with conflicts aggressively too, rather than naïvely taking their supposed general peacefulness at face value. We demonstrate that the same distinctly democratic set of interests and norms that is conventionally taken to be pivotal for democratic peacefulness yields both peaceful and belligerent behavior. That same democracy-specific set of interests and norms is also constitutive of the special appeal unmanned systems hold for democracies. While armed and eventually autonomous systems may thus seem like a ‘silver bullet’ for democratic decisionmakers today, we argue that, by relying on these systems in an attempt to satisfy the said interests and norms, democracies may end up thwarting them in the long run and render themselves only more war-prone.


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