Discussing
The ethics of unmanned drones

Jonathan Shine

GI_JC
March 21, 2011

As a retired Army First Sergeant, and a Christian, I have no moral quandary with the use of drones. As technology progresses, combatants will use the newest weapon available. The transition to iron from bronze in making swords was a logical evolution. The use of the long bow by the British was a huge development on the battlefield to the detriment to the nobleman knights. <br> The job of a leader in the military is to assure that you have trained your soldiers to do the unthinkable, killing another human being. It is our duty as leaders to do your best at training them so that they are capable of defeating the enemy as quickly as possible. And it is our, dare I say, sacred duty to train them to this keen fighting edge so that we don't squander their lives senselessly in battle. This country's fathers and mothers have entrusted us with their children. And it is our duty, as leaders to do everything in our power to assure that we have given them every tool available to come home in one piece. <br> Our enemies don't suffer any attack of conscious in using women or children to walk into a group of civilians and blow themselves up. We as United States military personnel have gone above and beyond in our attempts to limit civilian casualties. Often time at the expense of our own service members lives and well being. <br> Suffice to say I take issue with the concept that drones are less christian or even less civilized at waging war. War in and of itself is far from civilized.<br><br>Joseph Vidinich<br>1SG, U.S. Army<br>Retired

JCarpenter
March 22, 2011

The newest weapon allows one to kill enemy combatants more efficiently. The newest terminology ("collateral damage") allows one to kill civilians.<br>Military interrogation methods now include torture.<br>The best defense is a good offense, so now we have pre-emptive strikes and unilateral warfare.<br>War, even "just war," may be a necessary evil, but is still an inescapable evil. "You shall not kill" is still a commandment, that we find hard to keep (not just in war) and easy to justify.

Geoffrey Kyle
March 22, 2011

I work for a highly respected and very successful thermal imaging company, whose infrared and thermal cameras are often mounted to the noses of these drones. I can say, after seeing footage firsthand, that the technology in today's warfare allows the soldier to discriminate and recognize, more now than ever before, friend vs. foe. <br><br>Many Christians confuse the "turn the other cheek" principle as a macro command (a command to a nation) rather than what the context suggests it is, a micro command (a command to an individual). It would be irresponsible and sinful to throw our hands up in the air and allow innocent civilians to be killed. It is our God-given duty to protect our nation from evil. At the same time, it would be sinful, on an individual level, to seek revenge on someone for wronging you. It's a balance, but the balance it most definitely biblical.

Paulvanderklay
March 22, 2011

I'm not sure drone technology is worse than WWII era bombing. I'd guess its far more defensible. Just because the soldier is in Kansas or someplace rather than the cockpit doesn't seem to me to impact the ethics of the operation. <br><br>NPR ran a story today on the drones over Pakistan. This issues is fraught with questions. I'm not sure drones are better or worse than aircraft with pilots. <br><br>Your point that got traction with me is making war more palatable for the American people by making it less costly for the public. I think this, however, begins at a far deeper level. I was critical of Bush II for prosecuting a war on a credit card, choosing to not have Americans pay for the war they prosecute, thus making the war seem less than what it was. Obama seems to be following right along. How would the nation feel about its wars if we were all paying a war tax? What we are doing is fighting these wars at the expense of the service persons, their families, and our children who will pay for not only the weapons and soldiers we hire today but the medical bills for all of the wounds suffered in those wars. We want war and we want it on the cheap, all the way around. I find this to be a larger moral issues than the question of the drones. pvk

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
March 23, 2011

Thanks Paul - this might have been the NPR story you heard: <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/03/22/134755618/Pakistan-Rebukes-U-S-Over-Drone-Missile-Attack" rel="nofollow">http://www.npr.org/2011/03/22/...</a>. What's evident here is the anger and mental distress felt by civilians in the countries where these attacks are being carried out. Aside from the moral issue of innocent victims, this seems to suggest that drones may be counterproductive when it comes to "winning hearts and minds."

Jonathan Shine
March 30, 2011

1SG, <br><br>Thanks for posting this, and I don't think that I disagree with you as far as the individual morality of you and I using UAVs in combat. You're certainly right on about our duty as military leaders.<br><br>But I do think that there is a valid moral concern for Christians as active members of our society when we finds ways to go to war more cheaply and at less risk to ourselves. You say that war itself is not civilized, but our technology increasingly makes it possible for the US to wage war in a way that feels civilized to our citizenry, safe at home - but not for those on the receiving end (and in most cases not for those of us in uniform, but even for us we risk forgetting that we're not just playing a video game). Just War is based on the idea that those who make the decision to go to war (ultimately, the people of the democracy) also bear the risk and cost of waging the war. What happens when the risk and cost for the vast majority of the citizenry is so low that deciding to go to war seems easy?

Jonathan Shine
March 30, 2011

Your last comment is absolutely true, but I would suggest that it doesn't let us off the hook in thinking and talking about the specifics of how we keep the commandment. If, as you say, war may be a necessary evil, then we have a duty as Believers to try to determine how we prosecute war in the most Biblical way we can. The Lord gave us a lot of commandments that are difficult and that require both wisdom and humility to follow. The application in daily instances is not always clear - but that should drive us to our knees for more wisdom and to brothers and sisters for council. In the end we still have to make a decision, based on our evaluation of the situation, an examination of our hearts, and a genuine desire to follow after Christ wherever He leads. That's what the Just War theorists have wrestled with for centuries, and we are being intellectually and morally lazy if we cease to continue to wrestle with the issue. Thus my suggestion that your answer is too simple; if war is easy to justify, then we have to engage in discussion about what is or isn't a good justification.<br><br>Incidentally, I take GREAT exception to your comments about collateral damage and torture, both of which, as a Soldier, I find offensive and incorrect. I have no expertise in the civilian intel community, but "military interrogation methods" very specifically do NOT allow torture, and in my three deployments to combat I have never once seen or heard of any military professional using jargon ("collateral damage" or otherwise) to suggest that murdering civilians is morally or legally justified.

JCarpenter
March 30, 2011

JS: I think you mis-read me or I was obtuse in my brevity; I agree with you. I meant to be critical of our society---civilian, government, military alike --- that is as you say ceasing to wrestle with issues of morality in war, and instead accepts or condones the things I listed that have made their way outside the manual and standard op procedure.

Markrmorris2
April 18, 2011

How about this, what would Jesus do? Send a platoon of marines, or a squadron of unmanned bombers? It's ludicrous to even think of him authorizing either. The "Church" was never confortable with this dichotomy until four centuries in after their marriage to the Roman empire. This should not be a debate among christians, the fact that there are any that can support any military action whatsoever, save in direct defense of human life, is disgusting.

Deb Koster
February 9, 2012

In addition to the hazards to everyone on the receiving end of a drone it is hard on our soldiers.The NPR show that caught my attention was the PTSD that drone pilots were experiencing. No weapon comes without repercussions and their use should be very limited and only after thoughtful deliberation. http://www.npr.org/2011/12/19/143926857/report-high-levels-of-burnout-in-u-s-drone-pilots

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