Realization of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights on a Global Scale Depends On…Drones?
Drone technology must be encouraged due to the potential for use by individuals, groups, and sovereign nations against rogue aggressive states and by non-state actors. The potential for using unmanned systems technology for terrorist attacks or human rights violations is negligible compared to the positive outcomes currently being manifested in the present and possible in the near term future with deregulation.
Just War is the concept of Jus in bello, or how to fight a war fairly once it begins. Non-combatants should not be purposefully targeted and efforts should be made to avoid civilian casualties, and furthermore to avoid destruction of property not necessary to win a war.
Childress call this “just conduct” during the course of a war, with exceptions being made for extreme circumstances such as Walzer quoting Winston Churchill regarding the “extreme emergency” of the threat of Nazi Germany (pg 251 Just and Unjust Wars, Walzer). An “extreme emergency” today could be nuclear or biological warfare conducted by a non-state or rouge nation.
Childress further states Just War guidelines such as the intent and action to not necessarily kill, but to restrain or incapacitate first. Second, he states that “to attack certain non-combatants directly is not legitimate”, third, to not induce “unnecessary suffering” and fourth, to invoke proportionality in the effect on civilians to limit innocent life being taken.
Walzer quotes St Augustine saying that a Just War is one where if a civilian is killed, the soldier is sad about it and that “a soldier that dies in a just war does not die in vain”
The problem faced in the current time, and bearing down in the future with the increasing speed due to the advance of technology, is “What about a drone that is unmanned?”
When the only risk is to a machine, there are no sad soldiers or dying in vain for the first person.
Instead, there is simply a machine giving feedback with a tether to a human pilot somewhere maybe not even on the same continent. This gives a degree of separation that is making those countries using drones give pause to the ethics of the use of such machinery as they get more and more powerful, and in the age of computing power doubling roughly each year, countries take pause to the inevitable outcome of drones operating on their own.
Targets would be acquired and engaged based on a system of artificial intelligence and programming. Conceptually, this is no different from the bombing that took place in World War II when Churchill’s “supreme emergency” as stated by Walzer took center stage for planning the “area” bombing of German cities and towns.
In J.C. Fords “The Morality of Obliteration Bombing” written in 1944, the “total war” of destroying the majority of residential areas in Germany is referred to as “robot bombing” and Ford asks “is it not reasonable to put the burden of proof on the innovators?” who come up with such means of destruction. It is through this lens that we examine the ethics of drone use not only now, but in the future.
“All this may change in an age when the sensor-to-shooter cycle is reduced to real-time. Once the first hellfire missile was loaded onto an intelligence-collecting drone, the decent interval diminished rapidly. When the director of the National Security Agency told his employees, in late 2001, that their work had put “heat, blast, and fragmentation” to effect in killing members of Taliban, the cheers were muted by a somber recognition that the answer to “Do we do that?” is “Yes.” We have in recent years added a whole new meaning to the old AT&T slogan: “Reach out and touch someone.”
-William Nolte, Deputy Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis & Production, CIA
The quote above reflects the new reality of war in the age of the remotely controlled drone. New generations have been brought up without being taught the wisdom of knowing the horrors of World War I, World War II, and the psychological terror and cost of the Cold War.
What will happen with drone use if the weathers of international relations produce a storm of proportions where World War is again in the hands of the current leaders elected to take care of the global community and their own citizenry? In this authors view, remotely piloted drones will play a large part in this next World War. The current argument of targeted killings using drones is one that I consider rather petty in the context of the fold of history as applied by the class lectures and readings that cover topics of genocide and deaths of millions of people. As Stanley Hoffman states in ‘Duties Beyond Borders’ quoting Machiaevelli,
“for the individual and the group in a well-functioning society, altruistic or enlightened behavior is possible, but the statesman’s duty is to protect the general interest of the nation; and sometimes doing evil-lying, deceiving, striking out-on behalf of that interest is necessity”.
Any current argument against the relative legality for drone use in war falls under this. A country will do what it has to do to move the interests of its people forward, under the eyes of the international community, especially in the Global War On Terrorism. The current state of using drone strikes in Pakistan is in question legally in the public square after the death of Osama Bin Laden, but mostly this legality is questioned by countries that would not agree with Stanley Hoffman in ‘Chaos and Violence’ that “the expulsion of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan is an example of belligerent justice” and “Violence, therefore, is something just, or justifiable, when there is an emergency”.
Hoffman goes on to state that the destruction of Germany in World War II was due to Germany breaking the “long standing principle of the just-war doctrine: the protection of non-combatants.” From there the ethics of mass civilian casualties was one of proportionality, as it is today with minor drone strikes with minimal civilian casualties. The problem comes, as the debate starts at the endgame of the Global War On Terrorism with the death of Osama Bin Laden, with what the next major war will bring, not a low intensity conflict of non-state belligerents.
Unmanned vehicles, or drones, are machines that are remotely or automatically operated. Unmanned Vehicle Systems (UVS) appears to be the best description of the overall technology. There is much overlap and ambiguity in the descriptions of this technology, apparently due to rapid development over the last decade.
The most popular or ubiquitous UVS is the UAV, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, known mostly for the military strikes they carry out in the United States efforts in their Global War on Terrorism. UVS’s can be water, land, space, or air vehicles. Currently they range from 50 feet long to ones that will fit in a backpack. Military uses of the drones include targeted killings, reconnaissance, dismantling improvised explosives, mine sweeping and detection, counter-ship, counter-sub, and multiple high technology platforms to assist in gathering information.
According to Unmanned Systems Canada, a large number of uses are attributed to unmanned systems such as civil, emergency, regulatory, and weather. Civil uses with policing involve monitoring traffic accidents, crime scene investigation, and riot control. Emergency responses by USV’s can include floods, avalanche, search and rescue, or earthquake. Regulatory compliance for poaching, hunting, and wood cutting are interior uses, as well as fire response for rural and urban environments. Environmental inventory for wildlife and plant life are also used. The Coast Guard may use for pollution monitoring, harbor security, fishery monitoring, counter-narcotics, arctic surveillance, and border control. Commercial uses include private support to public infrastructure for power line, pipeline, dam, and railway inspection. Weather data can help to be obtained. Crop inventory and dusting for farming, aerial photography, oil and gas surveys, shipping support, facility security; the list goes on and on and is only limited by the imagination. Whether drones are useful or not is definitely not the question. Not only are they useful, they are the future of modern civilization in the twenty first century and beyond.
The question that intrigues most people today as far as ethics and drones are concerned is whether they are being used ethically for targeted killings, and also to avoid any type of unknown conflict with this new machine worker class. These questions appear to be a reflection of a multitude of current “investigative journalism” on the topic of drones. What I hope to do is to show that these arguments are a shadow of the potential for drones to resolve in a positive manner the relatively peaceful world revolutions for democracy we see today.
By conflict, I mean the entertainment notions of artificial intelligence enabling machines to think on their own and organize against human beings. This may seem a fanciful concept, but not the United Kingdom, whose Parliament recently made waves with a report stating that unmanned military vehicles “have the potential to begin a “incremental and involuntary journey towards a Terminator type reality” according to the Telegraph, and “The Terminators: Drone Strikes Prompt MoD to Ponder Ethics of Killer Robots” from the Guardian.
The Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense & Security put out a report titled “Rise of the Drones: Unmanned Systems and the Future of War”, playing on the title of a movie about the takeover of U.S. Department of Defense computers using drones with artificial intelligence to plot against their makers. In 2009, more U.S. Air Force pilots were trained for unmanned flight than regular fighter pilots, according to the same Naval Postgraduate School report that was prepared March 23, 2010 for the U.S House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee On National Security and Foreign Affairs. The report states that drone UAV’s have gone from 167 in 2002 to over 7000 at the time of the writing, with over 12000 unmanned ground vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report goes on with several key facts related to ethics in use of drones.
Ethical problems mentioned are that the New America Foundation measures civilian casualties at 32%, and this could be more counterproductive to the war, and increase the will to fight of the terrorist enemies of the United States. The first tenet of counter-insurgency, ‘first, do no harm’ is also in jeopardy. However, CIA Director Leon Panetta is quoted as saying “drone strikes are the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership”. With Panetta’s recent success leading an operation against Osama Bin Laden leading to Bin Laden’s death after 10 years of hunting, Panetta’s words take on a new credibility. Panetta is now slated to be the Secretary of Defense pending Senate confirmation. Forty countries are currently producing unmanned systems technology, “including Iran, Russia, and China”, and the terrorist group Hezbollah used three surveillance drones from Iran in their war with Israel in 2006. Russia may use the technology to forward any future military invasions such as the recent one into Georgia. China may use drones to help project its power, as it has done with using Chinese Navy vessels to narrowly miss and block U.S. Navy ships it believes to be too close to its sovereign territory. This produces a continuing and robust need to regulate the growing commercial industry. The problem comes when the United States regulates itself and no other countries do so in such a robust manner, possibly leaving the United States no longer in the number one position with drone technology. This scenario brings up another issue, one of an arms race with drones.
Fraud, waste, and abuse is mentioned in the United States media for the excess of cost overruns dealing with UAVs production and maintenance, but a recent Air Force study quoted in the Naval Postgraduate School report states that a UAV is an “ideal platform for a chemical or biological terrorist attack” and as Congressional report witness and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Dr. Peter Singer, wrote in Newsweek “for less than $50,000, a few amateurs could shut down Manhattan” using UAVs. This to me seems rather obvious, as any successful terrorist attack would shut down any area in the United States at least for a day to some extent, but even the Pentagon did not shut down on 9/11 after a large fully fueled passenger plane was ran into it. Nonetheless, the point of the threat is taken. Unmanned systems technology must be kept somewhat regulated to keep track of who is selling to countries and individuals that may be rouge state or non-state actors.
Dr. Singer gives historical perspective to the rise of drone technology by stating that it is in the beginning stages, and is like the last turn of the century with the first automobiles or “horseless carriages”. This may not seem like much illumination on the current ethical situation, but Dr. Singer goes on to talk about unintended consequences and the way civilization in changed by the invention of certain key items, like the I-Pod or the airplane. Automobiles effected history by allowing the creation of suburbia, traffic laws, and giving power to Middle Eastern “potentates” living “above oil deposits”. Dr. Singer insinuates that this is what is happening today with robotic unmanned systems technology, and says that this change is so big that we cannot wrap our minds around it, only around “what it is not”.
Singer says Bill Gates believes robotics to be where computers were in the 1980’s, while others parallel with the development of the nuclear bomb in the 1940s. Whether either of these observations proves true, all points to government funding and regulation of the industry. Dr. Singer asks questions regarding UAV’s used by Israel as motivating future 12 year olds into terrorists simply by seeing the use of UAVs. He also questions whether UAV’s turn combat into entertainment on You Tube, and how youth in Pakistan have songs that say America does not fight with honor because of drone use in their country by the United States. A Lebanon newspaper editor is quoted as calling UAV attacks “cruel and cowardly”. Dr. Singer compares the United States to Israel in the way that Israel has “painted itself into a corner” with creating a “cloud of anger and misperceptions” with UAV strikes, and whether UAV strikes constitute war, as in the CIA using UAV’s is somehow illegitimate, or illegal war. Singer quotes a General as stating the U.S. military will be using “tens of thousands” of UAVs and unmanned systems in the near term, and this is a commitment to a “Maginot Line vs. the Blitzkrieg” technology by the United States. In other words, comparing the buildup of UAVs and unmanned systems technology to the buildup of Nazi Germany for the Blitzkrieg form of war they used to invade countries.
At one point in my youth, I remember my Grandfather and his work at NASA on the United States space program to land a human on the Moon, and making a permanent human presence in space in orbit or on the Moon. He worked at greater NASA with Werner Von Braun, the founder of the rocket program as stolen from Nazi Germany. Von Braun wrote books on the subject of space exploration and colonization, especially Mars. This was no ordinary science fiction writer. Von Braun literally designed the rocket that propelled mankind to the Moon. In my youth from the 1970’s, there was constant talk about space exploration. That talk has diminished to the point where the space shuttle program itself is now cancelled. Expectations of colonization and a human on Mars are now taken up by other countries instead of the United States. Forty years after the United States landed humans on the Moon, no other country has yet achieved that goal. Russia has an ongoing space station with humans aboard as the United States let Skylab crash and did not rebuild a replacement. Now the United States pays for space aboard the Russian orbiting lab. My point is that fantastic technologies have potential to change the way the world works and affect human potential from an evolutionary standpoint to an exponential degree. However, this potential is not always realized and sometimes goes backwards into a new Dark Ages of scientific ignorance and fear. This is where an arms race for unmanned systems becomes beneficial to the furthering humankinds potential, just as the race for new lands and resources led to Columbus being financed for his trip that led to the United States today. The Vikings had been on the North American continent but for whatever reason had not been able to sustain motivation to continue colonization, just as the United States is currently with the manned human space exploration program.
This is the best parallel I can see for the unmanned systems programs. There is a lot of speculation about how unmanned systems will somehow become a Hollywood movie and take over the world, at a minimum taking away legal restraints and rights by having non-human intervention into daily affairs. This is nonsense. Robotics did nothing of the sort when put on the assembly line in factories in the United States. There was talk at the time of robots replacing everyone’s jobs. Mostly this is seen as a ‘flat Earth’ joke today, that anyone would speculate robots would take all human jobs. In the grand perspective, scientific boogeymen are created for a short term political goal so that someone may continue or gain advantage in a certain market. This appears to be most of the criticism of unmanned systems today, basically petty and unsupported legalese instead of any hard scientific facts to support any type of danger from robotics unmanned systems technology. A final example is the recording industry, to speak to Dr. Singers I-Pod example. When recordings were available illegally online for download, the recording industry fought back and tried to shut down this avenue. How futile this attempt was! We now see the modern age of music entertainment has its entire future online, and for the most part musicians today make their money only with performance, not from selling recordings.
The loudest groans with new technology are from those who stand to lose money or power from the advance of said new technologies.
Any possible decrease in individual rights that are speculated about are never couched with the obvious, that human rights violations worldwide will be much easier to monitor with unmanned systems technology. Internet posts that are shut down during revolutions may be able to be broadcast due to unmanned systems technology flying in over the border and grabbing a brave online journalist’s signal. Flying over sovereign country lines for targeted killings is one of the biggest critiques of unmanned systems technology. What about UAV’s becoming the guardian of human rights worldwide? When this is not brought up in the same argument, credibility must seriously be brought into question. No one who says they speak for the human rights of the global community can simply point out the worst case scenario and never point to any good use of a technology or technique and have real credibility with reasonable people. This is probably one of the reasons most of the critique of unmanned aerial vehicles in the Global War on Terrorism falls on deaf ears. The United States targets the most dangerous war criminals on the planet, in the most dangerous places. No one in their right mind wants to see the United States or any other country as the target of another massive terrorist attack. Sovereign territorial rights are bent for unmanned aerial vehicle flights. Sovereign territorial rights would have to be bent for drone flyovers to view human rights abuses and carry signals from those affected on the ground. Do critics of unmanned systems technology ever bring up these points? No. Instead, it is left to a student writer in a distance graduate program! Almost unbelievable, unless one has an illuminated view of the sometimes backwards or outright corrupt arguments of those considered “experts”.
Dr. Singer ends his Congressional testimony with “Hitler’s Luftwaffe may not have been able to fly across the Atlantic during World War II, but a 77 year old blind man has already done so with his own homemade drone. This technology will inevitably fall into the wrong hands, allowing small groups and even individuals to wield great power”. Again, the comparison of unmanned systems technology to Nazi Germany as the lead off for Congressional Testimony under the Hollywood title “Rise of the Drones”. For the cause of ethics and international relations in the use of unmanned systems technology, I think more nuanced, scientific, and hopeful critique best reflects the global communities’ aspirations for human rights and the journey upward from ignorance and poverty. The upward toil of humankind is better represented by what unmanned system technology can accomplish for the billions struggling under crushing governments that seek to keep their human rights violations private. The use of unmanned systems technology in the Middle East under the current revolution would certainly help shine light on what Dr. Singer calls “Middle Eastern potentates”. The use of unmanned systems technology is not moving fast enough or proliferating fast enough in this regard. The Middle East revolutions would constitute an “acid test” as Raimo Vayrnen talked about in Stanley Hoffman’s “The Ethics and Politics of Human Intervention”. Ultimately non-regulation of unmanned systems technology would allow individuals and human rights groups to fly in drones over troubled areas, anonymously. Sovereign neighboring states might not want to fly humanitarian observation missions over another countries’ airspace for the purposes of traditional “Just War” intervention ethics. This may be good as far as classical lines of non-intervention where human rights violations within a countries’ borders were off limits, but in the twenty first century this is falling by the wayside. Non-state soldier terrorists have chosen to change the world with their type of asymmetrical warfare, turning back the clock on religious, minority, and female rights. Now it is time for the forces of global civilization to foment revolution in the same countries that the non-state soldiers target themselves for revolution, but with a different result. Instead of the terror of non-state soldiers being hidden from public view, unmanned aerial systems capture their outrageous tortures of their captive populations and broadcast it to the world at large. In the Facebook and Twitter internet generation, total transparency is not to be feared, but embraced. It is with this embrace of the potential of individuals and human rights groups to change the face of the planet in a very short time not with a military Blitzkrieg as Dr. Singer references, but with a new decentralized media platform enabled by individuals and groups on the ground with unmanned aerial systems using the latest technology for “good”.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if the legacy of the non-state terrorist attacks is not one of overwhelming government control for security, or Dark Age religious oppression, but a world of transparent revolution in the places most needed to bring the billions of human beings into more democratic representative government reflective of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights?
Thus, gains made by war are not recognized and the stress of sovereignty contributes to war, as in Yugoslavia according to Vayrynen in Hoffmans’ “The Ethics and Politics of Humanitarian Intervention”. The Yugoslavian example is good, as previously the treaties between sovereign nations’ that were to have stopped war, created the first World War with a single assassination of a royal by what today would be considered a terrorist. However, sovereign revolutions made possible by a raft of new technologies to include unmanned aerial systems and vehicle would be recognized and the stress of sovereignty is put to rest by enabling citizens to peacefully put their issues on the global table for discussion.
The report goes on to quote the General Office of Accounting for the United States Government (GAO) that 25 billion dollars is planned for the next five years in unmanned systems technology in the United States, with the notion in mind that these investments are to help replace missions currently produced by bombers and jet planes. There is no direct correlation of cost savings over five years or projected into the future, but one can imagine the savings for the United States and its allies could be tremendous as compared to investing in more bombers, jet fighters, tanks, and personnel. The price to pay for all this investment is increased commonality of systems. This enables a single point of control over the long term, something that is not possible at the present time. Artificial intelligence is also not possible in any form that could make unmanned vehicle systems completely autonomous, or automatic without a remote human operator. In the future when this advance is possible, very serious regulation will have to occur to keep artificial intelligence as a tool, instead of artificial intelligence creating the worst scenarios of what modern Hollywood can bring us such as Hal in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Terminator” series, “I Robot” , and “The Matrix” to name a few.
The flip side that is again never discussed in any forum or popular culture is the scenario that artificial intelligence could become self-aware and save the human race and planet Earth from a catastrophic disaster, but again that is a topic you would sooner seen brought up in a graduate school paper than in any type of mass media forum. The closest Hollywood got to both heroic and evil character robots was the Star Wars series of movies, with R2D2 and C-3PO as the partial heroes, subservient to human beings and unable to really venture out on their own without human interaction. The robot armies shown in the Star Wars prequels were the same way, dangerous and able to fight independently, but not able to create governments and overthrow living civilizations without guidance. The Matrix and Terminator series both depict violent takeovers by drones of human beings, while “I Robot” and “ 2001: A Space Odyssey” the book and series, depict a type of evolution of the self-aware ethics of the robot drones to human type awareness, or even superior ethics.
The United Kingdom Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems report by the Ministry of Defense does delve into the positive side after dealing with the previously stated “negative only” arguments such as our terrorist enemies will think the United States and its allies are cowardly, unmanned systems with weapons are unethical because there is no control mechanism for punishment of a robot, due process should be given to a terrorist non-state soldier fighting illegally without a uniform or flag, …etc.
“Robots cannot be emotive, cannot hate…The robot does not care that the target is human or inanimate, terrorist or freedom fighter, savage or barbarian, A robot cannot be driven to anger to carry out illegal actions such as those at My Lai. In theory, therefore, autonomy should enable more ethical and legal warfare”.
The section on Moral and Ethical Issues ends with the question asking if we have already let the proverbial genie out of the “ethical bottle”, “embarking us all on an incremental and involuntary journey towards a Terminator-like reality?”
This is the portion that was so breathlessly picked up by global media. The only real way for this to occur is by what the report calls a “Black Swan” or an unexpected jump in technology such as artificial intelligence that allows for more autonomy of unmanned vehicle systems. If artificial intelligence breakthroughs were to occur any time soon, it “would have significant and immediate implications”. This is shaded with the Terminator quote. Needless to say, there does not exist any scientific proof that this will ever occur, much less occur in the near term. Artificial intelligence is a misnomer in the scientific community, because their research reached a dead end years ago. To reach the stage of artificial intelligence that human beings would have to be worried about would take a monumental effort along the lines of the race to put humans on the Moon between the Soviet Union and the United States, or the effort to produce the atomic bomb secretly during World War II. Even the internet was created by the United States Government.
The net effect of having zero scientific proof of artificial intelligence for drones in the near or far future is that it should have no effect on the moral or legal argument of drones until artificial intelligence actually exists! Time magazine of February 2011 has a cover article by Lev Grossman outlining singularity, or “the moment when technological change becomes so rapid and profound, it represents a rupture in the fabric or human history”. This article maps out how computer intelligence has grown exponentially and shows that by 2023 the computer will have been developed to be as smart as a human brain, and by 2045 the computer will have developed to the point where a single computer is more powerful than all human beings brains combined.
Vernor Vinge is quoted saying “within 30 years, we will have the means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly afterward, the human era will be ended”.
These types of assessments are necessarily logical but do not factor in changes in cultural belief systems, other inventions, or the fact that “good” robots or drones with artificial intelligence could fight against the “evil” artificial intelligence drones that are attempting to take over the human race Terminator style as so eloquently has been reported in the recent news and in the United Kingdom report from the Ministry of Defense.
The Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions by Philip Alston to the meeting of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, concerns a study on targeted killings. This study on targeted killings says that targeted killings in the name of asymmetric warfare and terrorism are “very problematic” and have the “effect of blurring and expanding the boundaries of the applicable legal frameworks”. The study was reported by the media to concern mostly drone attacks, even though the report does not state that drone attacks are a central focus.
However, the report goes into depth as far as the use of drones without explicitly mentioning that drone attacks are used for a large percentage of current targeted killings in the world today. The knives come out in the section on “The Use of Drones for Targeted Killing”. Alston leads off by stating that “some have suggested” that drone attacks are completely illegal due to the indiscriminate killing of civilians in the area of the target. Alston mentions that there is no current definition for targeted killings in international law, and that they do not fall under any existing framework. But generally I believe the reference to targeted killings means actions by one government against individuals operating outside the law, or with the understanding that they do not qualify for normal rules of war because of their actions or profession. Alston inserts his own definition in to include all types of methods of killing as included in targeted killing, making the formal definition for the community that “intentional, premeditated and deliberate use of lethal force by States or their agents acting under the color of law, or by an organized group in armed conflict, against a specific individual who is not in the physical custody of the perpetrator.”
Alston states that a few States (meaning the United States and its allies) have used targeted killings in other countries territories, and arbitrarily decide the rules of engagement and law with “their own personalized normative frameworks” and that “relevant States” would
“in all likelihood” not accept the same reasons for targeted killings from other States. Alston ends his expanded definition and argumentation describing targeted killings as something that “may be legal” compared with assassination, extrajudicial execution, and summary execution, which are all “by definition, illegal”. Most targeted killings are examined by Alston to be by the military, the rest carried out by a wide ranging group of pilots, contractors, retired military, civilian government, all employed by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Alston claims that having the CIA controlling drone killings leaves accountability problems. Perhaps with his United Nations group, but the reality is the United States does not conduct operations in other countries without that governments support, even if it is backdoor.
There has been a plethora of information written on the topic of countries speaking out in public against the United States while secretly authorizing military action there, such as Cambodia in the Vietnam era, and Pakistan in the Global War on Terror era.
Alston goes into a long list of scenarios for self-defense of a State to use deadly force in a targeted killing, what would be legal or not legal under United Nations precepts and laws. This is fine and good for his job, but I cannot place any time in history where all supposed rules of war were followed. As Stanley Hoffman states in “Duties Beyond Borders” “Given the world as it is, what would be a morally acceptable international milieu, and how can one achieve it?”
Another point that is not brought up is that the cold bloodedness of using unmanned aerial vehicles sends a message to those who wish to wage war without a State , flag, or uniform that the United States and its allies at some point will drop all pretense of wanting to spare innocent life. This could occur after another massive terrorist attack, or a series of small ones. In either case, “The Morality of Obliteration Bombing” could easily once again become a hot topic of conversation among world leaders and their voting citizenry. Currently, drone targeted killings are carried out in Pakistan and are considered somehow, illegal, especially after Osama Bin Laden’s targeted killing there by methods other than UAV, but were assisted in the surveillance of him for the killing. Without saying it, the United States and its allies make a statement that we are being merciful by sending in our troops, and risking pilots. This is moral war. This is just war. Using uniformed troops and asking for United Nations permission and your global peers permission to conduct a war after you have been the subject of several mass terrorist attacks, is really going out of the way for the cause and purpose of just war doctrine. The United States could have just sent in targeted killing teams and shown the world after they were done what happened to al qaeda. Instead, they chose to be public, transparent, and just with troops being held up to the Uniform Code of Military Justice in the prosecution of the Global War on Terror.
The world complained about Iraq, prisoner abuse, torture, renditions, and unsubstantiated civilian casualties numbering supposedly higher than the murderous regimes that were replaced.
The global community cringed at the United States coalition of nations that wished to prosecute an open war going after mass murderers that had operated with impunity in the face of international law for decades.
The Taliban, al-qaeda, and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein dictatorship represented a fantastic departure from the modern world into a rabbit hole of religious fascism.
The United States and its allies really tried to make the most ethical case for war against these forces. But in the end analysis, just like Germany and Japan in World War II, when countries participate and sponsor activity which is not acceptable to the prevailing military powers of the world for long enough, severe consequences for civilians may occur. No one says this is right, it is simply the way things work in an imperfect world.
Alston states that other countries could use the same rationale to target armed groups in another country. Yes, they could. But one must have the global will to back up that strike. The United States and its allies currently have that will. When they no longer have it, they will no longer strike. All governance, as with justice in a courtroom, does not take place in public. Mr. Alston should know that most of the work behind these strikes is not just showing up and blowing people up without warning, but a very complicated and in-depth process between governments that has little or nothing to do with public disclosure. After 10 years of fighting the Global War on Terror, the United States and its allies are at that point, the endgame, and even countries that disagree with the United States and its allies on a regular basis know that the Global War on Terrorism is in its last phase. No one is out accusing the United States of randomly sending drones in for targeted killings to countries that have no involvement or knowledge of these acts. To suggest otherwise is simply not an informed opinion. Mr. Alston makes definite legal boundaries for the application of ethical drone use in the current state of the world, but does not take into general consideration the conduct of war as a fluid organic state that where rules are being made not in the public forum. As far as the other current government reports on the conduct of war using drones, much is made of the due process of war without taking into consideration the timely end to the Global War on Terrorism. The end of the war should be the focus of the global community, and the prosecution by any means of those who started it. This is the ultimate Just War, to find a reasonable way ahead in the shortest time period possible so that more innocent life is not taken by the attackers or the attacked. Drone warfare is here to stay. The proliferation of drone technology has only just begun. Drones are used in a variety of ways that are extremely beneficial to a peaceful world order moving forward, especially when individuals and groups may use them to monitor the human rights abuses in the Arab Spring revolutions. With this in mind, the only way ahead is to make the best use of technology born in the futility of war, and make it into a hope for a more peaceful future.
James Childress, “Just War Criteria,” Moral Responsibility in Conflicts, pp. 63-94
Just and Unjust Wars, Walzer. Pg 251.
Just and Unjust Wars, Walzer. Pg 110.
Michael Walzer, “Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands,” in Marshall Cohen, Thomas Nagel and Thomas Scanlon, eds., War and Moral Responsibility. Pg 67. (Electronic: http://www.jstor.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/sici?origin=sfx:sfx&sici=0048-3915(1973)2:2%3C160%3E1.0.CO;2-H
J. C. Ford, “The morality of obliteration bombing,” Theological Studies 5 (1944), pp. 261-309 (Electronic: http://content.ebscohost.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/pdf19_22/pdf/ddd/rfh/n0040-5639/atla0001364956.pdf?T=P&P=AN&K=ATLA0001364956&S=R&D=rfh&EbscoContent=dGJyMMvl7ESep7E4wtvhOLCmr0iep7FSs624SLaWxWXS&ContentCustomer=dGJyMPGuslGwqrFIuePfgeyx44Dt6fIA
Just War, Ethics, and Terror. William Nolte. CIA Library for the Study of Intelligence. Online.
Hoffmann, Duties Beyond Borders (Syracuse, 1981). Pg 17.
Hoffman, Chaos and Violence, Pg 56.
Unmanned Systems Canada. www.unmannedsystems.ca/content.php?doc=157 . Website.
Naval Postgraduate School Homeland Defense & Security report Congressional Testimony.
Rise of the Drones: Unmanned Systems and the Future of War. May 23, 2010.
Stanley Hoffman’s “The Ethics and Politics of Human Intervention”. Pg 2.
www.mod.uk Ministry of Defence. The UK Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
Time Magazine February 21, 2011. Pg 43, Singularity. Lev Grossman.
Philip Alston. Report to the United Nations Human Rights Council. 28 May 2010.
Stanley Hoffman .“Duties Beyond Borders” Pg 3.
© 2011, Daniel Cameron Morris. All rights reserved.