‘Hawks let loose’: Drone warfare ‘lowers killing threshold,’ study claims

© Christopher Griffin
Drones lower the threshold for the use of deadly force, a military study claims, as more details of the UK’s extrajudicial ‘kill list’ emerge.

The ‘Future Operating Environment 2035’ policy report by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) looks at the potential for drones to get around public opposition to troop deployments.

The authors argue that the “increased use [of remote and automated systems] in combat and support functions will reduce the risk to military personnel and thereby potentially change the threshold for the use of force. Fewer casualties may lower political risk and any public reticence for a military response.

In essence it makes the use of remote violence a more attractive option for military decision makers.

In an analytical piece on the Drone Wars website, researcher Chris Cole said: “Averse public reaction to the death of military forces deployed overseas is a real restraint on political leaders weighing up the option of whether to launch military intervention.

He said removing that cost by using unmanned weapons would make it “much easier for political leaders to opt for ‘clean and quick’ use of military force rather than the slow and often difficult political and diplomatic options.”

The analysis comes as new details of the UK’s drone operations in the Middle East emerge, with the Guardian reporting Friday that a US-style kill list of jihadists was drawn up the National Security Council (NSC) after the 2015 general election.

Senior Liberal Democrat sources have warned that the August killing of two British jihadists in Syria also exceeds anything previously attempted by the UK.

The hawks have been let loose and are trying to test the boundaries of what is possible,” one senior source told the Guardian.

A cross-party group of MPs led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has warned that the strategy is flawed and lacks a legal basis.

There has to be a legal basis for what’s going on. This is war without parliamentary approval. And in fact parliament specifically said no to this war in September 2013,” Corbyn said in a statement.