The Common Good

Use of drones neither just nor moral

Date: August 7, 2013

Targeted killings by drones, which have become key elements of the Obama administration's counter terrorism strategy, fail the test of morality on a number of grounds:

1. Targeting assassinations outside of legally declared wars violates international law, which prohibits a country from carrying out military attacks against a territory with which it is not at war. Drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia violate this prohibition.

2. They violate the sovereignty of other countries. The government of Pakistan has repeatedly objected to drone strikes on its territory, calling them a "clear violation of our sovereignty and a violation of international law," but its concerns have been repeatedly ignored.

3. There is little transparency or accountability. CIA drones are remotely controlled primarily from Air Force bases in the United States, with no clear accountability, and with the targeting sometimes based on dubious intelligence.

4. They set a dangerous precedent. More than 70 countries now posses drone aircraft. While most of these drones are not armed, that is clearly the next step. The covert use of combat drones by the United States, and the rapid expansion of the U.S. armed drone program, represent escalation into a new kind of arms race.

5. They foster a perpetual state of war. Without risk to troops on the ground, it becomes easy to use violent force to respond to conflict. "Force protection" has been one incentive to make war a choice of last resort. The use of un-piloted aircraft eliminates that consideration.

6. They kill innocents. Much is made of the alleged precision of drone strikes. Yet whether through faulty intelligence, mistakes, or a willingness to accept "collateral damage," hundreds of innocent people have been killed by drone attacks.