We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age
By Laurie Calhoun
London: Zed Books, 2015.
Pp. xviii + 392. $24.95 hardcover.
Laurie Calhoun's recent book We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age examines the emergence and rapid expansion of unmanned aerial vehicles, known colloquially as "drones," as a tool of U.S. foreign policy. She seeks to address a variety of moral and legal questions surrounding the technology and ultimately argues that the use of drones by the U.S. government should be considered a war crime.
The book is divided into three sections, each referring to one of the three main components of drone operations. The first section, titled "Find," includes four chapters. This first section begins with a discussion of the lack of public discourse surrounding drones. Calhoun explores the idea of "collateral damage" and more general attitudes regarding the use of drones. She highlights a variety of problems with the current drone program and discusses the inherent differences between drones and other modern weapons.
Calhoun next examines the idea of assassination. Specifically, she points out that "black ops," or secretive operations, have become standard operating procedure for the U.S. government as opposed to rare undertakings. Unlike previous clandestine operations, these activities are widely acknowledged by top U.S. officials and known to the larger public. She also engages the debate regarding whether terror suspects abroad should be considered military targets and therefore be subjected to the rules of the Geneva Convention.
The following chapter begins with a discussion of how "success" is measured when it comes to drone strikes and discusses how the intelligence used as the basis of many drone strikes is often unreliable. In particular, Calhoun notes that strikes are often ordered based on information from informants. These same informants then report back after a strike has occurred, leading to substantial confirmation bias that "real" terrorists are being killed. She also discusses how drone missions have expanded over the past decade and examines the similarities between drone strikes by the U.S. government and the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
The second section of the book is titled "Fix." Its four chapters explore issues in the way drones are currently used. First, Calhoun highlights the problematic way in which the term terrorist is legally...