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"The use of drones invokes multilayered types of questions including military and policy questions as well as legal questions," U of M law professor Oren Gross says. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy.

Use of drones and new realities of warfare raise questions about need to adjust existing laws of war, U of M expert says

April 27, 2011

With the introduction of the use of drones by the United States in the war in Libya and new technology, the instruments of war as well as the realities of war are constantly evolving. This change raises military and policy questions as well as legal questions. An expert who can discuss this issue is:

Oren Gross, Irving Younger Professor of Law and the director of the Institute for International Legal & Security Studies at the University of Minnesota Law School

Gross says the United States has been using drones to engage targets in battle spaces in Afghanistan and as of last week in Libya while also using drones in Pakistan and Yemen, i.e., outside the zone of military operations. "The use of drones invokes multilayered types of questions including military and policy questions as well as legal questions," Gross says.

"For much of history, the laws of armed conflict (also known as the laws of war or international humanitarian law) have developed in response to and against the background of both technological developments and military strategies and tactics," he says. The new realities of warfare raise questions about the possible need to adjust the existing laws of war in order to respond to the challenges of modern warfare, he says.

"Modern realities of warfare, and particularly the strategic blurring of the distinction between combatants and civilians by non-state parties to the conflict (using civilians as human shields, operating from within civilian neighborhoods, and the 'farmer by day, terrorist by night' scenario) coupled with the introduction of prolonged asymmetric wars of attrition, present challenges to both the laws of war and regular armies who wish to abide by them," Gross says.

Gross is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of national security law and international law. He has concentrated much of his academic work this year on the interplay between legal norms and the new realities of warfare particularly on asymmetric warfare and the introduction of new and sophisticated technologies into battle space. He has presented numerous papers and lectures on the use of drone strikes by the U.S. and on the laws of war in what has been called the "fourth generation" of warfare.

To interview Gross, contact Patty Mattern, University News Service, at or (612) 624-2801; or Cynthia Huff, Law School, at or (612) 625-6691.

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit Views expressed by experts do not represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

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