Top Pro & Con Arguments


Drone strikes are legal under American and international law.

Presidential powers under Article II of the US Constitution allow the use of force against an imminent threat without congressional approval. [29] Additionally, in 2001 Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), authorizing armed conflict with al Qaeda and associated forces indefinitely. [30] The AUMF states that the President is “authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” [31] The AUMF does not have a geographic boundary, and the Obama administration notes that al Qaeda militants far from the battlefield in Afghanistan are still engaged in armed conflict with the United States and therefore covered under the law. [32]

Article 51 of the UN Charter provides for a nation’s inherent right to self-defense when it has been attacked. [24] The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions has said that Article 51 applies if the targeted state agrees to the use of force in its territory, or the targeted group operating within its territory was responsible for an act of aggression against the targeting state where the host state is unwilling or unable to control the threat themselves. [25] Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia have officially consented to US drone strikes within their countries because they are unable to control terrorist groups within their own borders. [26]

Harold Hongju Koh, JD, Professor of International Law at Yale University and former US State Department Legal Adviser explained, “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.,” and a country may target individuals in foreign countries if they are directly participating in hostilities or posing an imminent threat that only lethal force can prevent. [27]

The United States also has the right under international law to “anticipatory self-defense,” which gives the right to use force against a real and imminent threat when the necessity of that self-defense is “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation.” [28]

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