What “rules of war” should apply to Predator drones, the eerily efficient weapons that cruise the skies and target adversaries with the precision of a sharpshooter’s bullet? It’s an urgent question — not simply for the United States, which is expanding its use of drones, but for dozens of other nations that may soon use them to target their own “bad guys.”
Although drones have been controversial abroad, there has been relatively little public debate about them in America. That’s partly because U.S. officials usually won’t discuss their operations, which are highly classified. But officials affirm privately that they have been highly effective against al-Qaeda’s leadership in the tribal areas of Pakistan — and that they are being used in Yemen and Somalia in an escalating campaign against al-Qaeda affiliates there.
These weapons, which project power without risking “boots on the ground,” can become addictive. According to a report last year by a U.N. special rapporteur, more than 40 countries now have drone technology, and nations seeking to arm drones with missiles include Israel, Russia, Turkey, China, India, Iran, Britain and France.