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Professor Michael Lewis Shares Expertise on Military Drones

Oct 9, 2013

ONU Law Professor Michael Lewis is a leading expert on the use of military drones in the global war on terror. As the controversy surrounding U.S. drone attacks grows, Lewis finds himself in demand on the speaking circuit, with engagements scheduled at colleges and universities across the country.

A former U.S. Navy fighter pilot, Harvard law school graduate and law professor, Lewis offers a unique perspective that speaks to the military, legal and academic communities. “Military officials are reticent to talk to academics and vice versa,” says Lewis. “I try to offer a view from both sides and can bridge the gap between those worlds.”

Drones – also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – fly without a human pilot on board and are operated remotely by pilots several thousand miles away. In the mid-1990s, the CIA and the U.S. military started using drones for surveillance. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, they turned drones into lethal weapons, targeting and killing suspected terrorists hiding in remote regions of Pakistan and Yemen.

In the past year, the public has learned about hundreds of drone attacks carried out in Pakistan by the U.S. government since 2004, which has launched intense debate. Civilian casualties top the list of concerns. How many innocent civilians have been killed in drone attacks, and is the U.S. creating more enemies in the process? Legal scholars question the legality of the attacks under traditional rules of war. Does the U.S. have the right to launch attacks outside of “hot battlefields”?

Lewis, who supports the use of drones in the war on terror, puts forth reasoned and calculated arguments that address many of these moral and legal concerns. He testified before Congress in 2010, and his essays on the topic have been published by the Los Angeles Times, New York Post, The Atlantic, and other national media outlets in recent months.

This fall, Lewis will travel to Cornell University, Rutgers University, the University of Cincinnati, Indiana University Bloomington, the University of Maryland, the University of North Carolina, Washington and Lee University, and the College of William and Mary to lecture or participate in debates or panel discussions.

Lewis says he enjoys being part of an unfolding national situation. “I’m not researching, writing and speaking about something that happened 50 years ago. It’s happening now,” he says. “The exchanges that I have during the debates and panel discussions I participate in give me the opportunity to road test the ideas I’m thinking and writing about. I’ve sometimes changed my opinion, or reinforced or reframed my argument after a lively debate.”