U.S. Navy Photo

Drones Are Controversial But Legal

I hate Obama’s drone war — but, under the law, he has a perfect right to fight one. Armed drones in war may be new, but their use introduces no new ethical or legal issues.

In the Western world, the laws of war are built on the foundation of the Just War tradition. The principles for employing force are fairly simple and realistic. The use of force has to be under a competent sovereign authority. And it has to be proportional—that is, the level of force used must be appropriate to the military mission, with appropriate care taken to avoid harming innocents.

Those rules apply regardless of the weaponry involved, be it hand grenades, nukes… or armed drones. As I said, nothing new here.

Our laws and treaty obligations place a legal framework around the principles of the Just War tradition. At times, the United States has modified these legal instruments to account for the unusual destructive power of certain weapons — their ability to inflict intentional and unnecessary cruelty or to pose an indiscriminate threat to innocents. For example, the U.S. helped pen conventions on poison gas and biological weapons, as well as treaties to help stem the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Drones, however, present none of these issues. There is nothing novel or unusual about the destructive potential of a drone strike.

Read more at The Atlantic