by Travis Normand
Brennan said the [Obama] administration has determined it can conduct targeted drone strikes against suspected terrorists in order to prevent attacks on the U.S. and to save American lives, and he said there was nothing in international law that bans this. But Bellinger . . . says it doesn’t matter what technology is involved, whether it’s a drone or bullet, virtually no other country in the world buys into the U.S. rationale.
“This looks a lot like an assassination; the U.S. firmly believes that it is not — that this is a military action in self-defense against someone,” he said. “But the human rights community is growing increasingly concerned about what they call targeted killings of particular individuals.”
. . . .
Tom Parker, policy director for terrorism and counterterrorism at Amnesty international, says the U.S. needs to be careful because its rationale for the use of drones could be abused by others. For example, the Chinese could use it to go after people it considers a national security threat — maybe Uighur or Tibetan activists living in a third country, he says.
There is “absolutely nothing stopping them from using the same justification,” he said. “And, of course, terrorism is often in the eye of the beholder. You’re going to see states use this justification to carry out attacks on human rights activists and political opponents.”
My argument would be rather simple, and it is that the U.S.’s drone usage is in direct response to our “war on terrorism.” This war was launched following the attacks on 9/11 and it has been one of the first of its kind. While conceptually new in terms of its global scope, the war is in fact real. We do have an armed military engaged in other countries and we are using drones to follow the enemy where ever they may run and hide.
In other words, if another country simply started using drones to take-out those it saw as undesirable, I would ask: (1) was the target a “terrorist” threat?; (2) by use of the drone, are you claiming to be at war with someone?; (3) what other efforts are you using in this war?; and (4) is the drone one of many different vehicles of war or is it your sole/primary means of attack?
Of course, such a construct is unworkable and would arguably place restrictions on drone usage. If nothing else, it would limit drone usage only against those you are already actively pursuing with a live military.