How this maneuver space is understood in the context of drone warfare depends on one’s normative perspective. For instance, States facing terrorist activity will inevitably emphasize their right to self-defense; States into which defensive operations may be mounted and those facing no serious threat will likely tout the impermeability of borders. Such conflicting standpoints contribute, as will become apparent, to a vibrant debate over the parameters of the jus ad bellum (the international law governing the resort to force by States).
Differences in normative perspective similarly plague the jus in bello (inter-national humanitarian law (IHL)) debates surrounding drone strikes. Indeed, IHL is a particularly fertile environment for disparate views since each of its prescriptive norms represents a delicate compromise between a State’s need to conduct military operations effectively (“military necessity”) and its desire to protect its citizens, property, and activities from the ravages of war (“humanity”). Thus, for example, military officers and their civilian counterparts may draw conflicting conclusions as to where the balance lies.