From Libya to Nagorno-Karabakh, from Yemen to Syria, populations live under the threat of air strikes, often disrespectful of the law of war. Faced with modern conflicts, in which overarmed States and “gray” actors mix, it was opportune to question the air force, as Lieutenant-Colonel Florian Morilhat does. At 38, this air force officer joined the staff after operational missions in Afghanistan, the Sahel or the Gulf as a helicopter pilot for the Pyrenees squadron, based in Cazaux. He just published Ethics and air power (Economica, 108 pages, 24 euros).
This solid work calls on both philosophy and experience to register in defense of“A weapon focused on precision, in search of a perfect mastery of violence”. But the officer also agrees to expose at length the moral criticism, which he shares in part. The ever greater distance that missile and aircraft technology brings makes it possible to kill without exposing yourself. It has resulted, notably in the case of the CIA drone strikes, in committing the crimes of extrajudicial assassination.
Thus, the legality of the elimination by the United States of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, in early 2020 in Iraq, “Seems highly questionable” for the author. On the other hand, he believes, “Nothing in international humanitarian law allows us to consider that the drone operator is not a combatant” if he intervenes within the framework of the rules of war, even this American serviceman striking in the Middle East from his air base in Creech, Nevada. Florian Morilhat answered exclusively to questions from World.
You remember that there is no particular right to air weapons, how does ethics intervene in this context?
There is no specific right to air weapons, in fact. Surely because the states which have the technological advance have no interest in legislating. This is especially true of the United States since World War II. But the law of armed conflict does apply! And in Western conception, the “rules of engagement” – whatever guides the opening of fire for pilots – are, normally, even more restrictive. Under certain conditions – to put it simply, in the absence of risk to the civilian population – the law authorizes incendiary bombs. We French people totally refuse to use them because we consider them contrary to our values. This is where ethics comes in.
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