The drone wars
International law will not make them humane.

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The most important military revolution of our time, the development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), is well under way. In 2000, our military had 60 UAVs. Today it has at least 6,000, with more to come. From the Hellfire-missile-carrying Predator to the Global Hawk with its wingspan of 130 feet to the tiny Raven, which carries a camera the size of a peanut, UAVs are becoming ubiquitous, and drone strikes increasingly precise. Many people wonder where this technology is heading — and whether we need new laws and international agreements to keep the drone revolution from flying out of control.

Former New York Times editor Bill Keller has proclaimed that drones are “propelling us to the day when we cede . . . lethal authority to software,” while legal scholars question whether death by drone might violate international law. Radford University philosophy and peace-studies professor Glen T. Martin has written that this technology is “attacking the heart of civilization itself,” while two authors recently opined in the Wall Street Journal that, thanks to drones, “the West risks, however inadvertently, going down the same path” as the one that led to Auschwitz. These fears are misplaced and overstated. History shows that the best safeguards against the abuse of new technologies are new technologies themselves.

Editor's note: This piece originally appeared in the December 16 edition of National Review Magazine. It is available by subscription only.

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About the Author

 

John
Yoo

 

Arthur
Herman
  • Arthur Herman is a historian and author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age (Bantam, 2008), the Mountbatten Prize–nominated To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World (HarperCollins, 2005), the New York Times bestseller How the Scots Invented the Modern World (Three Rivers Press, 2001), and many articles on foreign and military policy. At AEI, Dr. Herman authored a new book that traces the mobilization of American industry, technology, and material production over the course of World War II.
  • Email: arthur.herman@aei.org
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    Email: neil.mccray@aei.org

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