Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NPR: The Legal and Moral Issues of Drone Use

NPR's Talk of the Nation conducted an extended thirty minute discussion of legal and moral Issues arising from drone use with Peter Bergen, Amitai Etzioni, and Philip Alston.

Etzioni has also recently written an article titled, Unmanned Aircraft Systems: The Moral and Legal Case, in Joint Force Quarterly, which is a publication of the National Defense University Press (NDU).
As I see it, however, the main point of moral judgment must be faced earlier in the chain of action, well before we come to the question of which means are to be used to kill the enemy. The main turning point concerns the question of whether we should go to war at all. This is the crucial decision because once we engage in war, we must assume that there is going to be a large number of casualties on all sides and that these may well include innocent civilians. Often, discussions of targeted killings strike me as being written by people who yearn for a nice clean war, one in which only bad people will be killed using “surgical” strikes that inflict no collateral damage. Very few armed confrontations unfold in this way. Hence, when we deliberate whether or not to fight, we should assume that once we step on this train, it is very likely to carry us to places we would rather not go, but must. The UAS are a rather minor, albeit a new, stepping stone on this woeful journey.

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