Remote Warfare Programme Director Emily Knowles will discuss the political and legal implications of the use of remote warfare at an event at the University of Exeter on 21 November 2018. 

No pre-booking is required.

Building:One is number 81 on the Streatham Campus Map. Visit the University web pages for directions and parking information.

Increasingly, the UK is conducting its military operations in a manner that places them within a legal 'grey zone'. In the short term, working with local partners on the frontlines against terrorist groups may provide flexibility and freedom of manoeuvre. However, it also leaves the Government and the armed forces in a position of latent legal liability. Of equal importance to the military, legal and policy communities should be the fact that legality is not synonymous with good strategy—what is lawful can still be awful.

Engaging in conflict without placing large numbers of British boots on the ground—a strategic approach we call 'remote warfare'—poses a number of key challenges. The first are the many complex, overlapping and shifting legal responsibilities that States working through local parties may bear for the behaviour of their partners. The second is the, perhaps widening, gap between public expectations of transparency around the use of force and the information that governments currently release.

If the British government is serious about being a credible international broker it needs to be able to tell other governments when they are failing to fulfil their commitments under international law or when they are acting irresponsibly. This is only going to work if the British national brand has already achieved a high degree of respect and perceived legitimacy, both at home and abroad. This requires a greater and more meaningful level of dialogue on international legal and policy principles.

The report, which serves as the discussion points for the event, is available here: 

Lawful But Awful? Legal and political challenges of remote warfare and working with partners” argues that this type of engagement creates legal “grey zones” which may leave the UK open to legal liability and, perhaps as importantly, it argues that just because something is legal does not mean it is a good strategy.