Game of Drones
109 American Journal of International Law 889 (2015)
Posted: 27 Jun 2016
Date Written: June 27, 2016
Mary Ellen O’Connell, Game of Drones, Review Essay of CHAMAYOU, GRÉGOIRE. A THEORY OF THE DRONE (Janet Llyod, trans.); SHAH, SIKANDER AHMED. INTERNATIONAL LAW AND DRONE STRIKES IN PAKISTAN: THE LEGAL AND SOCIO-POLITICAL ASPECTS; WOODS, CHRIS. SUDDEN JUSTICE: AMERICA’S SECRET DRONE WARS, 109 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 889 (2015).
States and armed groups use drones today to hunt and kill known persons and anyone in their vicinity by launching Hellfire missiles and dropping 500-pound bombs. They are used for targeted killing, a euphemism for assassination. Woods provides an excellent account of drone development from spy plane to killing machine. It is Chamayou, however, who demonstrates that as the technology evolved so have certain legal, moral, and strategic assessments of targeted killing. These new developments have not occurred because of the success of targeted killing. All three books provide powerful evidence that targeted killing is counter-productive to security policy. It is the very possession of the technology that leads to the will to use it, inducing legal scholars to argue for the right to do so. Chamayou says those possessing the capacity to kill believe they also possess the right to kill. His insights help explain the wide gap between the actual international law on the use of force — well stated by Shah — and the arguments presented by United States government lawyers and sympathetic scholars. International law in the form of the United Nations Charter generally prohibits the use of military force with only two narrow exceptions: The Security Council may authorize force when necessary to restore international peace and security, and states may exercise individual and collective self- defense against a state responsible for an armed attack on another state. Governments also invite assistance in suppressing civil wars. Any other analysis is fabricated to suit the drone.
Keywords: drones, international law, targeted killing, armed conflict, weapons
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation