Military drones and ethics: real debate or pretense?

Since their entry into service about twenty years ago, drones have been in the news regularly, especially in a field where the development of combat systems is not expected, namely ethics. Fueled by a popular culture rich in cinematographic and literary references, many political figures but also scientists, soldiers and philosophers, seized on the debate to try to understand and control the evolution of these new systems and prevent the appearance of the famous “killer robots”. This debate, against a background of ethical values ​​but also of very real fears of an automated runaway of combat, does it have realistic and proven foundations and objectives, or is it a new cloud of smoke stirred by some?

Today, the debate on the use of drones in combat has split into two parallel debates. The first concerns the very use of armed drones, or its ban. This is particularly the case in Germany, where the left parties are violently opposed to the Bundeswehr being able to use drones or robots carrying lethal weapons, to restrict them to intelligence and communication missions. This debate has consequences far beyond Germanic borders since it also affects the offensive functions and capabilities of systems designed jointly with other European countries, such as the Euromale drone, or the SCAF combat aircraft and MGCS tank programs. new generation. This is a purely ethical debate, which finds a strong echo in German public opinion, even if the use of armed drones as stray munitions has spread widely in recent years in many armies, to the point to play a leading role in recent conflicts such as in Syria, Libya or Nagorno-Karabakh. It should also be noted that support for a strict German stance against armed drones is also most often in favor of Berlin's accession to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and therefore its withdrawal from the NATO deterrence mission in which the Luftwaffe participates.

The debate rages in the German media as to whether or not the Eurodrones of the Luftwaffe should be able to be armed if necessary, with repercussions on European cooperation programs.

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