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The Institute for the Liberal Arts

Drones in Focus

an interdisciplinary conference on remote warfare


Friday, November 14 – Saturday, November 15, 2014
Stokes Hall, Room 195S
Boston College

This event is free and open to the public. Register below by 11/10.


about the conference

Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or ‘drones,’ represent a revolutionary development in war-making technology, and their possibilities and implications have been explored through a great many academic and artistic disciplines.

On November 14-15, 2014, we will bring together lawyers, theologians, philosophers, poets, playwrights, military strategists, historians, political scientists, and interested audience-members to engage with the many implications of drones and remote warfare. We hope to leave, if not with better answers, than at least with better questions about this relatively new method of war making.

Many of our conference speakers have already made significant contributions to the on-going discussion of drones, and this conference offers a unique opportunity to pursue a conversation between various members of the academy, arts, and armed services.

Conference speakers include:

  • Julian Bourg, Associate Professor of History, Boston College
  • Joe Campo, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force and PhD Candidate, Air University. Working dissertation title: The Psychology of Killing with Remotely Piloted Aircraft
  • David Deptula, Lieutenant General, retired, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force
  • Kenneth Himes, O.F.M., Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College. Author, Targeted Killing and the Ethics of Drone Warfare (Rowman and Littlefield, forthcoming)
  • Frank Garcia, Associate Dean of Global Initiatives and Professor, Boston College Law School
  • Kim Garcia, Poet and Creative Writing Instructor, Boston College
  • John Kaag, Associate Professor of Philosophy, and Director of the Global Studies PhD program, University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Co-author, Drone Warfare (Polity, forthcoming)
  • Walt McGough, Playwrighting Fellow, Huntington Theatre Company. Playwright, Pattern of Life (New Repertory Theatre, 2014)
  • Avery Plaw, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and Co-founder, ‘UMass Drone’
  • Allan A. Ryan, Adjunct Professor, Boston College Law School
  • Brian Glyn Williams, Professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth


conference schedule

Friday, November 14, 2014

1:30 p.m. Opening Remarks

1:45 p.m.


Session I
Defending the Predators: the Pro Argument for the CIA’s Drone War on Al Qaeda and the Taliban
Brian Glyn Williams, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
Respondent: Julian Bourg, Boston College

This presentation will make the argument that the CIA’s drone war has led to few ‘collateral damage’ deaths among civilians in Pakistan and has decimated the terrorists’ ranks through the use of spies and advanced technology.

2:45 p.m. Break

3:00 p.m.


Session II
Remotely Operated Air Power
Lieutenant General Dave Deptula, U.S. Air Force (retired)

General Deptula will address the widespread misunderstanding of just how effective, ethical, and precise remotely piloted aircraft are as tools in our National security toolbox.

4:00 p.m. Break

4:15 p.m.


Session III
Pattern of Life
Playwright Walt McGough, with director Bridget Kathleen O'Leary, and actors Nael Nacer and Lewis D. Wheeler

Tomas Van Houtryve’s photography series, Blue Sky Days
Kim Garcia, Boston College, will introduce the work before we adjourn to Stokes 203N for a cocktail reception and gallery viewing

5:15 p.m. Reception
Stokes 203N

Saturday, November 15, 2014

10:00 a.m. Continental Breakfast

10:30 a.m.


Session IV
Drone Law: What’s legal?
Allan Ryan, Boston College Law School
Respondent: Frank Garcia, Boston College Law School

An examination of drone warfare in the international law of war.

11:30 a.m. Lunch

12:45 p.m.


Session V
The Drone as Defender: The Changing State Practice of Self-Defense
Avery Plaw, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

An examination of the way that drone strikes are re-shaping, and being shaped by, the customary concept of self-defense.

1:45 p.m. Break

2:00 p.m.


Session VI
Drone: Poems
Kim Garcia, Boston College

Professor Garcia will read from a book of poems in progress on living in the age of remote warfare.

3:00 p.m. Break

3:30 p.m.


Session VII
Good and Bad Questions About Drones in Warfare
Father Ken Himes, Boston College
Respondent: John Kaag, University of Massachusetts, Lowell

This presentation will respond to some of the most common ethical questions posed about the U.S. policy on the use of drones in combat.

4:30 p.m. Break

4:45 p.m.


Session VIII
The Psychology of Killing with Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA)
Lieutenant Colonel Joe Campo

LtCol Campo will discuss his ongoing research project to document the psychological response of killing with RPAs and characterize this aspect of modern warfare through the lens of those conducting the missions.

5:45 p.m. Dinner
McElroy Commons, Room 237


speaker bios

Julian Bourg is an Associate Professor of History at Boston College. His teaching interests include courses on nineteenth and twentieth century European intellectual history, intellectuals and politics, the history of terrorism, history and film, modernism and postmodernism, and biopower. Professor Bourg’s current monograph project is on the history of the relationship between terror and democracy since the eighteenth century. Professor Bourg received his Ph.D. from The University of California, Berkeley in 2001.

Joe Campo is a U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and an Air University Stephen R. Lorenz Fellow completing his doctoral thesis. His Ph.D. dissertation focuses on the psychology of killing with remotely piloted aircraft. Lt Col Campo is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School and former commander of the 26th Weapons Squadron. He has earned an MS from the U.S. Naval Command and Staff College and a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan. Lt Col Campo has over 2,100 flying hours in the F-16, MQ-1 and MQ-9 aircraft.

David A. Deptula retired from the Air Force in 2010 as a Lieutenant General. He was first Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. He was the principal attack planner for the Desert Storm air campaign; commander of no-fly zone operations over Iraq; directed the air campaign over Afghanistan in 2001; has twice been a Joint Task Force Commander; and was the air commander for the 2005 South Asia tsunami relief. Lt Gen Deptula is currently the Dean, Mitchell institute of Aerospace Studies, and a senior scholar at the Air Force Academy. He is a graduate of the Univ. of Virginia, Fighter Weapons School, and National War College.

Ken Himes, O.F.M. is an Associate Professor of Theology at Boston College. Father Himes’s research interests include ethical issues in war and peace-building, the development of Catholic social teaching, and the role of religion in American public life. He has published on the ethics of U.S. military action in such publications as the Journal for Peace and Justice Studies, Concilium: Human Nature and Natural Law, Theological Studies, and the New Theology Review as well as multiple chapters in edited books. Father Himes’s forthcoming book, Targeted Killing and the Ethics of Drone Warfare, engages the ethical, legal, and political implications of targeted killing, including targeted killing by drone.

Frank J. Garcia is a Professor, and the Associate Dean for Global Initiatives at the Boston College Law School. His research interests focus on the globalization of law and justice. In addition to his work as a lawyer and legal consultant, he has held numerous teaching positions at universities in the U.S., Australia, Uruguay, and Austria. He currently serves as book review editor and board member of the Journal of International Economic Law, and advises the BC International & Comparative Law Review. Professor Garcia received his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1989.

Kim Garcia, author of Madonna Magdalene, is the recipient of the 2014 Lynda Hull Memorial Prize. She has been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, and her work has appeared in Crazy Horse, Mississippi Review, Cimarron Review, and Subtropics, among others. She teaches creative writing at Boston College, and is currently working on a book of poems called Drone.

John Kaag is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Professor Kaag’s research interests include the history of philosophy, Logic/Epistemology, philosophy of mind, and ethics. Professor Kaag has authored and co-authored multiple articles on the ethics of drones and military technology in International Affairs, Homeland Security Affairs, The New York Times, and Polity. His 2014 book, Drone Warfare (co-authored with Sarah Kreps) engages the ethical, political, and legal implications of drone warfare. Professor Kaag received his MPhil in International Relations from University of Cambridge and his Ph.D. in philosophy from University of Oregon.

Walt McGough is a Playwrighting Fellow at the Huntington Theatre Company. His plays include The Farm (IRNE & Broadway World Boston Nominee, Best New Play), Priscilla Dreams the Answer (IRNE Nominee, Best New Play), Dante Dies!! (and then things get weird), The Haberdasher! (a tale of derring-do), Paper City Phoenix. His recent play, Pattern of Life, developed as part of New Repertory Theatre’s Next Voices Fellowship, depicts two men who, but for a drone strike, would have no interaction. The play’s director, Bridget Kathleen O’Leary, writes, this “is not a play about ‘should we or shouldn’t we?’ It is about what happens when we do.”

Avery Plaw is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. He specializes in political theory and international relations, with a focus on strategic studies. Professor Plaw’s book, Targeting Terrorists: A License to Kill?, examines targeted killing from moral, political, and legal perspectives. Additionally, Professor Plaw is a cofounder of the Center for the Study of Targeted Killing, an interdisciplinary organization dedicated to a comprehensive empirical study of the militant actions of states against nonstate actors. Professor Plaw earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from McGill University.

Allan A. Ryan is an adjunct faculty member at the Boston College Law School as well as the Director of Intellectual Property for Harvard Business School Publishing. He has served the U.S. government in a number of capacities including law clerk to Justice Byron R. White of the U.S. Supreme Court, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, Assistant to the Solicitor General of the U.S., representing the U.S. government in the Supreme Court, and as the first Director of the Office of Special Investigations, U.S. Department of Justice. In this poistion, he was responsible for the investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals in the United States. Professor Ryan is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Minnesota Law School magna cum laude.

Brian Glyn Williams is a Professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. He has spent four summers in Afghanistan researching terrorism and is the author of a number of books and articles. In his latest book, Predators: The CIA’s Drone War on al Qaeda, Professor Williams leverages his extensive field work in the Pashtun tribal areas with his prior experience working for the U.S. military and CIA to assess the ethics and efficacy of the U.S. armed drone program. Professor Williams earned his PhD in Middle Eastern and Islamic Central Asian History from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


additional information

Parking: Parking is available on levels 3 or 4 in the Beacon Garage or levels 3-6 for the Comm Garage. The cost is $3.00 an hour with a maximum of $25 per day. Visitor Parking Details »


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Questions: Please contact with any questions you may have regarding this event.