Drones Are Not Ethical And Effective | Prof Jeremy Waldron | Oxford Union

Drones Are Not Ethical And Effective | Prof Jeremy Waldron | Oxford Union

Professor Jeremy Waldron gives his argument against the use of drone warfare.
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Prof Jeremy Waldron begins by highlighting what drone warfare involves. First of all the maintenance of a secret death list by government authorities under circumstances of secrecy, lack of accountability, lack of transparency and a serious failure of the rule of law.
The 2nd use of drone warfare is the expansion of drone targets. So now it’s not just targeting people engaged in combat but also preachers, propagandists and recruiters.
The third aspect of drone warfare is that it seems to involve covert operations in territories that are not initially defined as a theatre of operations e.g. Pakistan and Yemen. The people involved in these attacks are often CIA operatives who are not subject to military ethics. All these things are being defended as ethical.

He mentions that there has been talk about using drones on drug lords saying that we need to worry about the metastasisation of drone use. He goes on the say his final point is that whenever a new form of warfare emerges you have to consider whether it is legitimate in the hands of your opponents as well as your own and accept that it will be used on both sides. Jeremy stresses that an earlier point by Naureen Shah was never answered in that drone use promotes the growth of terrorism and inhibits the development of counter-terrorism strategies in Pakistan. In conclusion Jeremy states that even in the terrible terrain of warfare a world with secret death lists is one we can’t allow.
Filmed on Thursday 25th April 2013

Jeremy Waldron is a New Zealand professor of law and philosophy. He holds a professorship at the New York University School of Law and is Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College, Oxford University. Waldron also holds an adjunct professorship at Victoria University.

The Union is the world’s most prestigious debating society, with an unparalleled reputation for bringing international guests and speakers to Oxford. It has been established for 189 years, aiming to promote debate and discussion not just in Oxford University, but across the globe.


  1. Henry Barton on July 5, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    As with many hand-wringing debates about whether something is ethical, the more important question is: “Regardless of whether it is ethical or not, do you think we should do it?”

  2. Up2NoGood on July 5, 2021 at 11:35 pm

    It’s a weapon of fear and controlled by ungrateful masters of technology. The government is the only one that afford to buy, train, and use against target they deem a threat!

  3. Mud Tactics on July 5, 2021 at 11:40 pm

    Can you imagine a civilian bombing a residence and saying "he was going to rob my house".

  4. Ray Dillon on July 5, 2021 at 11:45 pm

    "imagined interest" fuck me he actually said it lol

  5. fishernz on July 5, 2021 at 11:48 pm

    A great example of a public intellectual discharging his duty as a critic and conscience of society. Sent all the way from Invercargill, NZ, Jeremy’s home town.

  6. Adelaide FOWL on July 6, 2021 at 12:02 am

    Drones are definitely not ethical, what sort of society are we creating? We are at the cross roads and things are not looking too good. Thank you Prof Waldron for your sane argument against this terrible future we might end up in..reasoned debate about the ethical use of weapons is what is needed more than ever.

  7. Victor Nascimento on July 6, 2021 at 12:03 am

    Enjoyed the debate. I think the technology of drones is ethical. It is more discriminant and proportional. The question at mind is who gets to decide and what are the criteria for ‘good intelligence’. In terms of effectiveness… Violence is never effective, it will only ever bring hate. Maybe you will take out a few people, but they will be replaced and the civilians you killed in the process will have family to join the fight against you.

  8. alig90edin on July 6, 2021 at 12:21 am

    But the whole question of "should" will always encompass ethics. In these debates, the material cost-benefit analysis will, and should, never be considered in isolation from the ethical problems.

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