The way war is being waged and will be waged in the future, if it is allowed to continue, has become a science fiction nightmare. As waged by the U.S. and other military powers, it has become secretive, pervasive, global, and more and more out of control and dangerous. There are no borders in today’s battlefields and the technology of killer and surveillance drones can be applied within and without a nation’s border, without permission and without international rules.
The latest generation of elites who run the world’s largest militaries and governments are increasingly comfortable exercising more and more sophisticated drone and surveillance technologies. There have been no treaties to check them. They have moved easily to this new paradigm of surveilling and killing without limits.
Drone warfare took off with the Iraq War. As per President George W. Bush, “After our nation was attacked on September the 11th, 2001, AmerIca made a decision: We will not wait for our enemies to strike before we act against them.” And attack they did. The Global War on Terror gave the U.S. military and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency license to kill any person identified as a terrorist. Under President Barack Obama, that license expanded to include U.S. citizens. President Donald Trump further relaxed controls on drone operations outside of battlefield zones. It remains to be seen how President Joseph Biden will continue drone warfare, but the only constraints on his use of drones is self-imposed by the President’s own authority. That is not enough. There are no external or enforceable rules.
What is the way out of the comfort zone of using killer drones by the U.S. and other dominant militaries? I believe that the Ban Killer Drone Campaign has identified the solution: bring as many countries together as possible to create a treaty to ban the use of surveillance and killer drones. It will take a tremendous effort, similar to the efforts to ban chemical weapons, land mines, cluster bombs, and nuclear weapons, but it needs to be done.
The best solution is to make war illegal. But on the way to banning war, we must ban killer drones.
Sally Jones is Chair of Peace Action Fund of New York State. @SallyJonesPANYS