Chris Cole I would argue strongly that the technology itself (armed unmanned remote systems) is a real danger to global peace and security that needs to be addressed. To be clear, there are of course policy issues here. President Obama has overseen a massive expansion in US targeted killing through the use of armed unmanned drones, which have killed in the region of 3,000-4,000 people unlawfully in Pakistan alone. As Reprieve, TBIJ and others have reported, hundreds of innocent civilians have been also killed in these attacks since 2002. But to ignore the fact that the it is the weapon technology that has allowed and enabled this, and in doing so, thereby allowing that very technology to proliferate and grow more problematic, is tantamount to willful blindness. Arguing that drones aren’t part of the problem is for all intents and purposes echoing the NRA’s argument that guns are nothing to do with the homicide epidemic plaguing the US.
While US targeted killing outside international law did not originate with drones, without a doubt it is the technology that has enabled a wholesale expansion of it – so much so that it has almost become normalised.And it is not just ‘anti-drone’ campaigners who are making this point. The 2014 report of the Stimson Task Force on US Drone Policy, authored by former senior US military and administration officials, states “it would be difficult to conclude that US targeted strikes are consistent with core rule of law norms” and declares that “the availability of lethal UAV technologies has enabled US policies that likely would not have been adopted in the absence of UAVs.” (For more on drones and targeted killing see here). But the problem with drones is not just their use for targeted killing as we continue to stress.