The evolution of targeted killing practices: Autonomous weapons, future conflict, and the international order

This article examines the potential use of autonomous aerial weapons for targeted killing purposes and, in doing so, looks beyond the now-familiar “global war on terror.” We argue that the combination of novel capabilities with the pre-existing military-theoretical frameworks of advanced Western states, within which autonomous weapons will be embedded, may be conducive to an expansion of targeted killings to scenarios other than military counter-terrorism. The confluence of autonomous weapons and targeted killing practices may therefore lead to a further weakening of long-standing norms regulating the use of force, including in interstate scenarios. We also find that international regulation is unlikely to forestall this outcome, and that political-military insistence on centralized operational control may mitigate—but not negate—the disruptive potential of these developments. As a result, the possible consequences for the international order of an evolution of targeted killing practices along these lines should not be underestimated.

Read the full paper by Michael Haas here.