Exploring Accountability in Autonomous Drone Warfare

posted before 2019-09-15

In June of 2018, I had the privilege of attending a writing workshop at Pembroke College, Oxford, UK.  There, I presented my developing work on an effects-based accountability scheme to address an apparent legal and moral accountability gap in future autonomous drone warfare.

I had drafted a rough proposal that involved increasing the liability of high-level combatant commanders and acquisition committee members for mistakes committed by autonomous weapon systems.  I wrote about this here.

Ultimately, the fantastic discussion at the conference made me realize that this idea was neither practical nor desirable in our current geopolitical climate.  Russia and China understand the power of autonomous drones to affordably close the military strength-gap between themselves and the US, and I think it is likely they would refuse to pass the resolution to hold key leaders more liable.  Further, the US is already the most careful power developing autonomous weapon systems; passing such a law would effectively shoot ourselves in the foot.