Sunday, June 1, 2014

Drone Law and the Possible End of the Nation State

(This is the result of some correspondence with Lt. Col. Robert Bateman over at the Esquire Politics Blog. He subscribes to the "just another weapon that won't change much" view of drones and I don't.)

Me, I worry that drones are preeminently a way of controlling and attacking a civilian population. They are an effective assassin's tool. I also worry that the most effective retaliation against drone warfare is probably assaults on the facilities and infrastructure of the drone system, which are usually deep within the borders of the nation that deploys the drones. Drone warfare makes assaults on civilians within a country a reasonable strategy. To get at enemy drones control stations and infrastructure, what general will scruple at also killing enemy civilians?

Because of their surveillance capabilities, they can see and hear, drones can be used for policing as well as military assault. That is both their potential and their nightmare. When drones seek out terrorist suspects within Yemen and Pakistan, both allies, that seems to me policing on the soil of allies. Our laws do not allow for summary execution of suspects and I doubt that Yemeni or Pakistani law does, yet that is what drone law is giving us.

It is possible that aerial drone warfare spells the end of the nation-state. Such things are hard to predict, but if war becomes a thing distributed throughout a region, rather than occurring at borders or fronts, there seems not much point in borders.