How Drones Help Break the Monopoly of States
This op-ed from today’s NYT reinforces a new orientation towards Mass Atrocity Response Operations (the name of a project founded by Sarah Sewall out of the Kennedy School that is enjoying some traction with the Obama Administration). Drones can be deployed in reconnaissance efforts to detect and document human rights violations.
The twist here: it doesn’t have to be governments doing the reconnoitering.
Drones are increasingly small, affordable and available to nonmilitary buyers. For hundreds of thousands of dollars — no longer many millions — a surveillance drone could be flying over protests and clashes in Syria.
An environmental group, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, has reported that it is using drones to monitor illegal Japanese whaling in the waters of the Southern Hemisphere. In the past few years, human-rights groups and the actor and activist George Clooney, among others, have purchased satellite imagery of conflict zones. Drones can see even more clearly, and broadcast in real time.
So that’s a capacity enhancement for NGOs, another way in which information-gathering powers, non-state relative to state, are diminishing. But why stop there? Non-state actors could up the ante by weaponizing their drones. Not far-fetched to imagine Sea Shepherd dropping bombs on whaling boats (and not so easy to stop them).