On March 13 and 14, a German court considered two challenges to the U.S. drone program in the Middle East and East Africa. Both cases, brought before the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia in Münster, assert that Germany bears legal responsibility for the consequences of U.S.-led drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia that were conducted from the U.S. Air Force’s Ramstein base, located in southwestern Germany.
Latest in Drones
Editor’s Note: The armed drone is one of the most important counterterrorism instruments, and its use is both constant and controversial. The origins of this program, however, are not well known. Christopher Fuller, a historian at the University of Southampton, offers a brief history of the program and shows how it is interwoven with broader institutional changes in U.S. counterterrorism.
Editor’s Note: Drone warfare is often caricatured as remote-control fighting, more akin to playing a video game than real warfare. In an unusual Foreign Policy Essay, Dave Blair and Karen House take on this myth, detailing the costs to the operators and the conditions that increase the risks to their well-being. They offer important recommendations for how to make drone warfare less morally and psychologically hazardous for the operators.
Understanding Life and Death between War and Peace
[Update: Several people reached out after I posted last night, drawing attention to the fact that al-Mourabitoun (also spelled al Murabitun) apparently reunited with AQIM after its initial separation from the group. On the other hand, others reached out to point to indications that the particular leader at the center of the current storm—al Sahraoui—may still lead a splinter faction that resisted/resists the return to the AQIM fold.
Are we about to see a significant shift in U.S. government policy relating to the use of targeted lethal force for counterterrorism purposes?
Maybe, according to an important article by Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt in the New York Times. Here’s what you need to know:
In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Gordon Lubold and Shane Harris reported that President Trump “has given the Central Intelligence Agency secret new authority to conduct drone strikes against suspected terrorists, … changing the Obama administration’s policy of limiting the spy agency’s paramilitary role and reopening a turf war between the agency and the Pentagon.” The article is sparking a lot of hand-wringing. Should it?
You could be forgiven if, amidst all the allegations of groping, the Clinton-Trump debates, and the ongoing implosion of the Republican Party, you missed an extensive interview by Jonathan Chait with our current president in New York magazine earlier this month. You could also be forgiven if you wouldn’t have predicted that among the “five days that shaped [Obama’s] presidency,” Chait includes in his piece September 30, 2011, the day that a U.S.
Greg Miller has an interesting and seemingly quite well-sourced article in the Washington Post today documenting (and offering explanations for) a significant decline in CIA drone strikes. To be clear, the claim is not that drone strikes on the whole are in decline.
The Lawfare Podcast: Jefferson Powell on ‘Targeting Americans: The Constitutionality of U.S. Drone War’
Four years ago, Anwar al Awlaki—an American citizen—was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen, marking the first targeted killing of a U.S. citizen by the U.S. government. While the attack occurred almost four years ago, the legality, morality and prudential nature of the strike, and others like it that occur nearly daily in a scattershot of countries around the world, remain a subject of much debate.
Editor’s Note: What is a drone? Some do surveillance, others hunt terrorists, and some models likely to enter air forces are more akin to sophisticated fighter aircraft. Dave Blair, badass warrior intellectual, argues that lumping these many different systems together under the label “drone” confuses more than it enlightens. It makes more sense, he contends, to focus on the mission set rather than the engineering behind it.
"All models are wrong, but some are useful."