Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Alastair Norcross

Second Advisor

Dominic Bailey

Third Advisor

Janet Donavan


The purpose of this paper is to present an objection to justifications for the continued use of drone strikes. This objection requires an examination of the fundamental aspects of the drone strike process. Considerations of strike authorization, outcome assessment, and intelligence gathering reveal deficiencies that contribute to the problematic status of the act. Arguments intended to justify the use of drone strikes rely on an analysis of outcomes that is impossible to satisfactorily apply to an evaluation of the tactic. These justifications are wholly insufficient on the grounds that we do not truly understand the nature of the use of drone strikes. The problematic nature of these justifications is fostered by a disabling epistemic uncertainty concerning the true nature of the act. In order to satisfactorily evaluate an act, the essential features of the act must be understood. Without a sufficient understanding of these features, it is impossible to produce a satisfactory justification of the act. The epistemic uncertainty inherent to the practice of employing drone strikes implies that a satisfactory determination of their status is impossible to achieve, and that the act is entirely unjustifiable.