Remembering Mike Lewis

by Chris Borgen

We are very sorry to mark the passing of Professor Michael W. Lewis of Ohio Northern University.

Mike spoke and wrote with rare authority as someone who was not only a leading international law and national security scholar who engaged in broader public discourse (see his many debates, presentations, and interviews), but also as a former Naval aviator and TOPGUN graduate, who had flown F-14’s in Desert Shield and enforced no-fly zones over Iraq.

More than most, Mike appreciated how international law was actually operationalized.

We at Opinio Juris benefited from Mike’s frequent contributions to the discussion, with posts and comments on issues such as the relationship between Additional Protocols I and II,  on various aspects of drone warfare (see, for example, 1, 2, and 3), and on  “elongated imminence” and self-defenseBobby Chesney and Peter Margulies have also posted remembrances about Mike Lewis at Lawfare.

On a more personal note, I remember the first time I met Mike in person, perhaps ten years ago, at a dinner at a national security law conference. He was a great conversationalist, speaking about the need to crystallize key principles of international law in a manner that would be immediately usable by the pilots and flight crews who were actually flying sorties.

His voice was unique and it will be missed.

http://opiniojuris.org/2015/06/23/remembering-mike-lewis/

2 Responses

  1. Mike Lewis and I overlapped on the USS Independence (CV-62) and at law school. He was a RIO (Radar Intercept Officer, the “Goose” to Tom Cruise’s “Maverick”) in one of the embarked F-14 squadrons, and I was an occasional temporary guest cryptologist on the staff of the admiral who was embarked on the Indy as Commander of Battle Force 70 when he needed my services. We may have both been lieutenants, but in terms of the shipboard pecking order, jet jockeys, even back-seaters, outranked staff intel wienies. (Interestingly, there were three of us at HLS who had all overlapped on Indy–Tim Lynch was a surface warfare officer.) I invited Mike up to Fordham in 2004 to guest lecture in my law of war class on aerial Rules of Engagement and how the rules my students had learned about distinction, military necessity, and proportionality were cashed out in actual bombing operations. He came into the class dressed in his flight suit and helmet with crash visor lowered like an Imperial Cruiser pilot–I’ll never forget it, nor will my students. He was at a law firm in Norfolk at the time and contacted me soon after the visit about going into law teaching. He’d published a great article in AmJIL on the law of war and aerial bombardment in the first Gulf War and I thought he’d be a terrific teacher to boot. I served as one of his recommenders and was not surprised when he drew interest from, among others, Mississippi and Ohio Northern, where he eventually ended up. We lost touch as things got busy with careers and family, but I kept up with his scholarship. I didn’t agree with his position on drones but he certainly had a rare credibility to hold them based on his direct experience. The last time I saw him, I ran into him briefly at the AALS hiring conference in Washington DC in October 2014. It was a brief conversation–he never told me about his illness. I am stunned that he is gone now, and regret that we didn’t get the chance to have one last good talk. Fair winds and following seas, shipmate. Tom Lee

  2. His reputation and influence was far and wide. I followed his work from Australia and was exceptionally fortunate to meet him twice. On both occasions we also enjoyed social activities. Mike shone in both settings.

    My condolences to his family and close friends. Know that Mike was so well liked and respected.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. There are no trackbacks or pingbacks associated with this post at this time.