Perhaps what is most shocking about the UN including armed drone attacks in its global counter terrorism strategy now, is the fact that it comes so late in the war; it has been almost ten years since the very first US drone attack on Pakistani soil on June 18th, 2004. Now, by way of a consensus resolution, states indulging in the practice have been called upon to ensure drone activity is mindful of international law. But what does this abysmal delay in response say about the functionality and indeed, integrity of the United Nations? A proposal (co-sponsored by Yemen and Switzerland) that Pakistan filed with the international body earlier this year, set the resolution into motion. Without naming any country specifically, the proposal focused on the loss of human life and breach of the principles of national sovereignty. It goes without saying that the document was aimed at the United States, which is the greatest user of armed drones in conflicts, including in Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan.

Of course, the issue is complicated further by arguments that focus on the laws of war, and nations’ conduct at a time of war. As expected, the United States, Britain and France voted against the resolution urging upon the non-politicisation of the issue. It is a camp that believes war negates the principles of precaution, distinction and proportionality. There is a problem here. The nature of this war, has from the very moment of its declaration, been a political one. It was stressed by the then Commander in Chief of the US armed forces, that this was a different war, a complex war. This has allowed for continuous breaches of human rights including indefinite detention, the suspension of habeas corpus, entrenched racism, and enormous civilian collateral. As such, it cannot be understood, or regulated, purely under the conventional laws of war any longer. Breaching the sovereign borders of a nation one is not exactly at “war” with, is an immediately political issue with great political ramifications. In this light, it is entirely accurate that the United Nations should pass some kind of politicised resolution to regulate the weapon systems of this uncommon and unnatural state of war. Countries like Pakistan that have fallen victim to the barbarism of armed drone strikes must ask why the resolution comes this late in the day, and whether or not it will make any real difference to the distorted principles drone users employ in the admittedly difficult counter-terrorism tactics of this war.