In memoriam

Mike Lewis, Ave Atque Vale

By Kenneth Anderson
Wednesday, June 24, 2015, 10:00 PM

Like others here at Lawfare, I was saddened - and shocked, as well, as I had not known anything was amiss — to hear of Mike Lewis’ passing.  I had just sent Mike an email, in fact, inviting him to guest post on the new DOD Law of War Manual, and that afternoon heard the news of his death.  He was a good friend and colleague in the law of war and national security law community; even though we only saw each other once or twice a year, we corresponded frequently and spoke by phone on many of the LOAC issuesthat our community engages with. Mike was a focused, disciplined scholar, careful and measured in his analyses of LOAC issues.  I valued his comments on things I was writing and thinking about, in partbecause he had a quiet quality of common sense that could temper some of my wilder thoughts.  So I found it enormously helpful to talk through issues with him, by email or phone.  Especially in areas related to weapon technologies, UAVs and air platforms in particular, his grasp of those platforms as a former pilot was a huge help to me in understanding how UAVs compared to human-piloted craft.

The most sustained time I spent with Mike was at the same conference event that Peter Margulies was at — a televised mock trial on drones and targeted killing two years ago at Penn State.  Mike was the lawyer and advocate in favor of drone warfare, and Peter and I were two of the witnesses.  As Mike told me then, he didn’t consider himself a polished courtroom advocate - not his area of law or teaching - but thought that this was an important exercise, to try and give lay audiences a good grasp of the arguments on both sides of the armed drones debate.  He did a wonderful job as an advocate - calmly and systematically addressing the arguments, and finding a way to offer a general audience a non-technical and yet nuanced view.

Mike and I shared something that is not usual in the national security or international law community — he taught, as I do, in the business and finance courses of our respective law schools.  We shared Corporate Finance and other commercial and business law courses, and Mike and I spent a fair amount of time discussing pedagogy in these areas.  I encouraged Mike to think of ways to integrate his quite special skill and experience sets — former Navy fighter pilot, former McKinsey consultant in business/finance — into his work in national security, LOAC, and international law.  He was both intrigued and skeptical at my suggestion that there were useful things to be said about similarities and differences between risk analysis in finance and in national security that he was in a special position to address.  I don’t know if he would ever have gone in those scholarly directions, but we had some very interesting and intellectually provocative discussions about them.

Mike’s untimely passing is a great loss to our intellectual community, and I have lost a friend and colleague.  I will treasure our conversations, however, and am glad that I have notes from them. I will treasure as well the memory of this always-modest, quiet, but intellectually gifted scholar.  Ave atque vale.