Legitimising the US Drone Programme

  • Marina Espinoza

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    In this thesis I outline the Obama administration’s legitimating discourse for the drone programme focusing on the discourse’s language and claims of precision. I begin with an analysis of the precision language in order to demonstrate its central role in the government’s discursive defence of the drone programme. Claims of precision underpin two key claims justifying the drone programme: (1) drone strikes adhere to just war principles and (2) drone strikes adhere to the laws of armed conflict. Since precision is at the heart of claims that drones allow for more virtuous foreign policy the aim of this thesis is to interrogate the drone’s alleged precision capabilities, and the programme’s related policies and intelligence practices, in order to reveal a gap between what is claimed about the programme and how it actually functions. Crucially, this thesis examines a component of the drone programme that is consistently overlooked in debates over the drone’s precision: surveillance. It also looks beyond the technical aspects of the weapon’s precision and towards the racist policies and practices that underpin the drone programme in order to show that drone strikes are inherently imprecise due to the current state of technology and a cultural racism that suffuses the programme’s surveillance and targeting practices.
    Date of AwardApr 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorBob Brecher (Supervisor) & Robin Dunford (Supervisor)


    • Drone Warfare
    • Orientalism
    • Algorithmic Warfare
    • Precision Warfare
    • Surveillance
    • Racism

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