Preventative Force

Preventative Force

Drones, Targeted Killing, and the Transformation of Contemporary Warfare

Edited by Kerstin Fisk and Jennifer M. Ramos

New York University Press, New York, 2016, 368 pages

Book Review published on: April 7, 2017

Preventative Force: Drones, Targets Killing, and the Transformation of Contemporary Warfare provides an analysis of the U.S. policy of preventive force, specifically using unmanned aerial drones. Its primary focus is threefold: to clarify the pros and cons of U.S. drone policy; to analyze the long-term impact on the stability and security of states and the international system; and to debate the legality and morality of targeted killings using drones. Its editors, Kerstin Fisk and Jennifer Ramos, along with the assistance of fourteen other research authors define preventive force as “the anticipatory use of force in order to eliminate a non-imminent, perceived potential threat before it has a chance to manifest.” This is the significant centerpiece to this book, because a preventive attack assumes an actor could likely conduct a hostile act against another party; however, it has yet to take any real concrete steps to do so. This differs from a preemptive attack, where an actor has acquired the ways and means but has yet to mobilize an attack force but soon will. Herein lies a key point to this book, the defining by an actor of what actions would justify a preventive attack.

Part I of the book (three chapters) discusses the pros and cons. It also includes some historical examples about the concept and applications of preventive war doctrine and what the United States’ position appears to be about the use of preventive force.

Part II (four chapters) focuses mainly on the use of drones and how they are being used by the military and the CIA to conduct warfare. The authors have done extensive research about the use of drones in the war on terrorism overseas. They also investigate the current legal framework for both the military application (against a clear declared enemy of the state) and law enforcement application, because many are being used outside declared U.S. military combat zones (e.g., Yemen, Somalia, and remote areas of Pakistan). This is perhaps the most interesting and informative section of the book because it digs deep into U.S. policy and analyzes where, when, and why the United States departs from their announced policies. It also discusses how the United States is losing credibility on the world stage due to its liberal use of drones primarily because of a lack of transparency and due process.

The third and final part of the book (four chapters and a conclusion) looks toward the future of drone warfare and offers some suggestions and alternatives to the current U.S. policy.

The book is well written from start to finish and appears to back up all its findings with credible research data despite much of the drone operations being cloaked in secrecy. It is organized in a logical sequence, and the editors have done a good job in tying all the chapters together. I recommend this book for those interested in the legal and moral aspects of drone warfare.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. George Hodge, U.S. Army, Retired, Lansing, Kansas