Student Responses on Military Drones and the Law

Students in our research seminar are asked to respond to each week’s lectures and readings. In the class of 2/12, the Center for the Study of the Drone hosted Marc Garlasco, senior military advisor for the Human Rights Council, and Peter Rosenblum, Professor of Human Rights Law at Bard College and Columbia University. Students read Precisely Wrong: Gaza Civilians Killed by Israeli Drone-Launched Missiles and The Civilian Impact of Drone Strikes: Unexamined Costs, Unanswered Questions.


Hanna Mitchell, ‘13 Environmental and Urban Studies
Like the internet, drones are marketed as “open-source”, “neutral” technology that bridges physical distance with virtual proximity. However, technology is inherently embedded in social and political power interests. A techno-deterministic outlook on drone development does not excuse the reality of drone activity.


Rajasri Narasimhan, ‘14 Mathematics
Any technology – and drones in particular – that turns actions (such as fighting) into a series of algorithms being operated at a distance almost numerates killing. A series of numbers, programming tasks, and click commands is rarely conducive to an emotive experience.


Lenny Simon, ‘13 Political Studies
This new model for a military strike not only redefines the benchmark needed for a strike, but also almost completely does away with the imminence test. In doing so, they have attempted to equate the level of threat of an imminent attack to one of delayed imminence, begging the question of whether the longstanding doctrine of imminence is dead.


Harrison Liddle, ‘14 Literature
But at the end of Precisely Wrong, at the end of the careful attention to detail, one can’t help but feel a sense of discouragement, a sense of so what, as one reads the Human Rights Watch’s letter that was sent to the Israeli government. This is of course not to try and demean the importance of the report or the work that went into it but is instead more a question that looms over human rights and International humanitarian law that asks what is there to do when constant violations are met with constant disregard.


Bernardo Caceres, ‘15 Human Rights
Labeling drones as “extensions of ourselves” helps designate their place in society. If they are extensions of ourselves, then they should be limited to the same thing we are. But what does this mean? Cameras, some would argue, are already all around us, nearly out of our control. As Susan Sontag puts it, “to live is to be photographed.” Does our acceptance of this change if the photographer is a robot? Should citizens be able to purchase and use these weapons in everyday life?


Kurt Schmidlein, ‘13 Economics
I’ve heard many say that they don’t believe the United States should use drones. But we’ve long since passed the point of whether or not we can use drones. Rather, we should be asking more nuanced questions: should it be legal and/or is it moral that we arm drones with missiles designed to destroy Soviet tanks? Do we not have an obligation, given our considerable wealth and influence, to use missiles with smaller destruction radiuses?


Image courtesy of Electronic Intifada.