Arguments by Mary Ellen O’Connells Legal Use of Combat Drones

In Mary Ellen O’Connell’s “Lawful Use of Combat Drones,” she responds to the ongoing argument about the use of combat drones on and off the battlefields and how in her opinion, they are actually a lawful use of combat when used properly. Her whole argument centers around not only the appropriate use and location of drones, but the importance of having suitable people using a weapon of such magnitude. Connell explains that the significant issue about drone usage is that there are not being used where they were meant to be used, which are battle zones.

Instead, we are seeing drones being used in places with massive amounts of citizens and the United States feels that the rules do not apply to them. She points out that the U.S is constantly faulting other countries and terrorist groups for not following the basic rules of keeping drones in battlefields, yet during our own situations of combat, we stretch the rules.

Connell makes it a point to explain to her audience that she is not saying drones are bad. Instead when used properly, they can be a very powerful and “safer” weapon of combat. Drones can actually end up saving more lives than people think. This is because drones provide a more precise aim at targets, and prevent the possibility of human error. They also save the lives of military pilots who would usually have to fly carrying weapons risking their own lives. She explains that by following the United Nations Basic Principles for the Use of Force and Firearms guidelines, drones are a lawful use of combat.

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Location and restraint, Connell emphasizes, are most important part of lawful use of combat drones. For example, the 2002 strikes in a region of Yemen, where the CIA used drone to fire missiles at a passenger vehicle, ended up killing six of the passengers, when they originally were going after one sole person. This was not only deemed as an “extrajudicial killing”, but the United Nations realized that countries such as Yemen were giving consent to other nations to execute drone strikes, but were never given permission to do so.

This continued with US killing people in Somalia, Pakistan, and other countries. Connell continues to point out that the United States like to make their own rules when it comes to combat. Former President George W. Bush defended the 2002 action in Yemen by classifying the conflict as a “Global War on Terror”, to which The United Nations explained that drones may only be used in combat or conflict zones, not just where they deem it to be appropriate.

Connell concludes her argument by pointing out that the when used properly, and used by the right people it is lawful to use combat drones, but that in order to continue to use them we must continue to follow the rules that were put in place, and put in place for a reason. She ends by pointing out that many terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda are increasing loosing support from their followers due to the mass use of violence, and that as long as we continue to fight fair, and fight real enemies, not attack innocent civilians, then the lawful use of combat drones can continue.

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Arguments by Mary Ellen O’Connells Legal Use of Combat Drones. (2023, May 17). Retrieved from

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