The N.Y. Times reports, in an interesting article, that the United Nations is going to call on the United States to stop using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) against suspected members of al Qaeda. Such pressure would not be legally binding, and is probably unlikely to put a stop to the military tactic. However, it could certainly deal a blow to President Obama’s national security strategy, which relies heavily on efforts to adhere to international norms.
Harold Koh, the Legal Adviser to the State Department and the former Dean of Yale Law School, gave a great speech at ASIL’s annual meeting; during that speech, he laid out the foundation for a legal argument concerning the legality of UAV strikes both within and external to active combat zones. Such strikes are almost certainly legal if the targets are in fact engaged in an armed conflict against the U.S. As Koh noted, “a state that is engaged in an armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force.”
Some potentially serious problems with the UAV program are discussed in greater detail, after the jump.