Last week the New America Foundation and the American Society of International Law among others sponsored a day conference at the Arizona State University on the issue of drone warfare and the law. The event brought together international lawyers, journalists, military officers, social scientists, foreign policy experts and others to discuss current and future legal issues surrounding the use of drones and emerging military technologies.
The conference literature stated: “Many commentators have raised questions about the legality of the use of unmanned drones by the United States, especially where attacks occur outside of clearly defined zones of conflict. However, far less attention has been paid to the complex legal processes used by the U.S. military in determining the lawfulness of specific drone attacks based on the Law of Armed Conflict. To the degree that drones and remote targeting technologies gather accurate data and deliver focused attacks, they could enable the United States and others to more appropriately respect the internationally accepted principle of minimizing harm to civilians enshrined in the Geneva Conventions.
Nevertheless, the significant asymmetries of power of drones undermine rule-based conflict and may threaten the viability of more humane visions of war. Furthermore, as these technologies increase in use, lethality and independence, armed conflict may become an arena in which thinking machines operate with ever greater autonomy, raising important legal questions about decision making and accountability.”
Well, I would certainly disagree with a lot of that but discussion about drone wars and international law can only be a good thing. Thankfully the sessions were videotaped and are available here.