America’s killing by drone program finally became frontpage news this week with the leak of a memo arguing the legality of targeting U.S. citizens suspected of being al Qaeda leaders. But the debate remains too small. Whether the president has the legal authority to order the killing of U.S. citizens is certainly an important question, but there are more fundamental issues not being given as much scrutiny. Some were touched on in the confirmation hearing of John Brennan, but much remains unanswered.
Beginning under President George W. Bush, and escalating under President Barack Obama, the United States is currently using armed drones in four countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia), has used them in two others (Iraq and Libya), and is considering using them in northern Africa. Why should we oppose this means of warfare?
Perhaps the most important reason is this. For those of us who follow Jesus, the Prince of Peace, killing other people, whoever they are, by whatever means, violates his teachings. An endless cycle of violence is not the solution to our world’s problems; we should rather actively seek peace. We cannot expect nations to live by the ethic of Jesus, as John Howard Yoder reminded us. We can, however, expect them to live by law, the standards they have set to restrain the worst of violence. From that perspective, here are some reasons for opposing drone attacks.