America has used so-named drones against enemies abroad (real or misidentified) far more extensively than it has thought through the complex implications of such usage. Now come a mid-course thought-correction, as it were, in the form of a nearly 400-page book that takes on the ethical, political and international law issues of drones from multiple directions.

The new book is titled ‘Preventive Force, Drones, Targeted Killing, and the Transformation of Contemporary Warfare’ (New York University Press, 2016). This carefully ordered collection of expert essays was assembled and edited by Loyola Marymount University Profs. Kirsten Fisk and Jennifer M. Ramos, from the LMU Political Science Department. And it includes a dozen major assessments of drone issues, including one on the Dirty Hands implications co-written by LMU Political Science Chair John Parrish; and one on international law issues, by LMU Law School Prof David Glazier, for two decades prior a U.S. Navy careerist.

This illuminating, quality volume is constructed on a view of drone warfare and other similar techno-weapons as part of a continuum of military options and usage, rather than as evidence of some totally novel development of warfare.  Consequently, the editors and the contributors are able to analyze the drone issue from the rich and thoughtful canons of existing ethical, international law, cost-benefit and even non-intervention/quasi-pacifism analysis. As contributor Deen Chatterjee of the University of Utah College of Law out his own view so well: “Legitimizing preventive war creates the cycle of preventive war.”

Perhaps so, but overall this superb collection accepts the reality that America will prefer to fight asymmetric enemies such as anti-U.S. terrorist tribes in Afghanistan more with the option of ‘drones in the air’ than ‘boots on the ground.’ Accordingly, contributors are able to emphasize, draw on and even improve on the rigorous work that has already been done – over the centuries as well as in recent decades- on the core issues of preventive warfare.  The result is a timely treasure chest of valuable thinking.

Tom Plate is the founder of Asia Media International and a columnist with the South China Morning Post. He is the author of the ‘Giants of Asia’ book quartet, including ‘Conversations with Ban Ki-moon’.

[Pictured above is LMU Prof Kerstin Fisk, co-editor of ‘Preventive Force,’ in conversation with students in the Pacific Room of the Del Rey Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles, in a book salon event 3 August sponsored by Asia Media International]

 

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