(War)Game of Drones: Remote Warfighting Technology and Escalation Control (Evidence from Wargames)

46 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2018 Last revised: 25 Jun 2019

See all articles by Erik Lin-Greenberg

Erik Lin-Greenberg

Columbia University, Department of Political Science ; Stanford University - Center for International Security and Cooperation

Date Written: September 5, 2018

Abstract

Dominant international relations theories suggest that technologies that reduce the cost and risk of military operations lead states to resort to force more frequently, destabilizing the international security environment. New weapons – like drones – raise questions about these logics. While drones eliminate the risk to friendly personnel in a way that increases the likelihood of military operations, technology that removes friendly troops from the battlefield may actually help states avoid escalatory spirals. To probe the effects of drones on escalation, I develop a theory of remote-controlled restraint: when used when used as a substitute for manned assets, drones increase the frequency of conflict between actors, but limit the intensity of these disputes by decreasing pressures for retaliation. This restrained retaliation prevents crises from spiraling into broader conflicts. To test this argument, I employ a novel methodological approach – embedding experimental manipulations into wargames played by military personnel. The findings have implications for the future of armed conflict and the study of escalation. The project also showcases wargaming as a tool for international relations research.

Keywords: wargame, experimental wargaming, drones, escalation, crises

Suggested Citation

Lin-Greenberg, Erik, (War)Game of Drones: Remote Warfighting Technology and Escalation Control (Evidence from Wargames) (September 5, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3288988 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3288988

Erik Lin-Greenberg (Contact Author)

Columbia University, Department of Political Science ( email )

7th Floor, International Affairs Bldg.
420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Stanford University - Center for International Security and Cooperation ( email )

Stanford University
Encina Hall E202
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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