The distinctive feature of the State—a convenient term to use for the sovereign authority of a society—is the recognition it has a monopoly on the use of violence to enforce its decisions.
One best example is in enforcement of laws. If a person uses a firearm to rob a bank, law enforcement officers are authorized to use similar, lethal force to apprehend the person. Of course, if that bank robber had taken the time to obtain an MBA and go to work for a major bank—and if someone from a major bank monitors this web site, please understand I love big banks—that robber could have made a bigger haul, been without need of a weapon, and walked out of the place with more money if he (or she) had gone to work in the bank’s management.
Another example of the State’s monopoly on violence is in the defense of the country from foreign forces. The Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Third Reich, because of treaty obligations to Japan, declared war on the United States. What now is called World War II had raged for over two years prior to Pearl Harbor, but December 7 marked our formal entry into the fray.
Many of the Framers of the Constitution did not want a Bill of Rights. Popular sentiment forced matters, however, and so "We, the People"—at the time white, male landowners—became protected by our Bill of Rights. The Framers also saw the need for a formal method by which the United States could go to war. We only have fought five wars under the provisions set forth by the Constitution: the War of 1812 (when we were invaded/provoked); the Mexican-American War (when we invaded to obtain territory); the Spanish-American War (when circumstances presented opportunity to snatch the Phillipines, Gitmo Bay, Puerto Rico, and other places from Spain); World War I (when we jumped into the fight as profits from the war began to sag); and World War II.
If we treat war like football—and many do—then we have a decent record in formally declared wars: 4-0-1. (The War of 1812 was kind of a tie.) When a nation’s government, in organized fashion, employs its military to attack and kill, one would be hard-pressed to explain to the mourners of those killed the legal distinction between carnage from war and carnage from a police action or other exercise.
There are restrictions about how our government goes about law enforcement and war. Those restrictions seem to have been discarded by the recent development of drones.
In the area of law enforcement, an "eye in the sky" that can watch our every move seems very Orwellian. Take that one step farther and give the "eye" a rocket launcher or some other weapon that a video gamer can use to erase a person, and one realizes the year 1984 nearly was three decades ago.
In the context of war, we use drones overseas and over the lands of other nations without formal declaration of war. We snuff American citizens. The accuracy of these machines, at best, results in 80 percent collateral damage—i.e., 80 percent of the damage is of people and things we did not intend to hit.
When we interpose machines between our people and the people whom we intend to attack, we interpose layers that erase culpability. We suffer fewer casualties, perhaps, but we also kill a lot more innocent people. Also, overall, we incur more hatred from the other people of the World.
This Saturday Civil Discourse Now will stream "live"—audio on IndianaTalks dot com or Live365 and go to "talk shows"; video on Ustream or this website—from the Indy Cigar Bar. The focus of our discussion will be the United States government’s use of drones.
Join us at the Indy Cigar Bar at 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 16. Or you can come and watch The Show. Jeff Cox, Indianapolis attorney and author of "Rising Sun, Falling Skies," will be one of our panelists. He is an advocate of the use of drones.