The revolution in robotic warfare is about to go global. Many countries are trying to develop or acquire remote-controlled “drone” aircraft such as those the United States has used to kill hundreds of alleged militants in Pakistan. Before this proliferation occurs, liberal democracies should be working to clarify and strengthen international rules on the use of these weapons systems.
The U.S. seems to be taking the opposite course, extending its drone campaign to countries far removed from the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan – including Yemen and Somalia – and using rules of engagement that are, at best, obscure and, at worst, illegal.
This is a dangerously short-sighted strategy. While execution by drone may appear to be a relatively low-cost and low-risk option for dealing with America’s enemies, it legitimizes methods that other countries may be expected to follow once they acquire similar capabilities.
Canada, which doesn’t yet operate armed drones, has little to...