Section V: How Targeted Killing Could Be Regulated
Since I claim that targeted killing creates a fear similar to terrorism, and this aspect of the tactic hurts Statman’s argument for drone warfare, I will now focus on how to regulate targeted killing so that technology such as drones can be utilized without raising moral dilemmas. To address this idea, I will draw inspiration from Allen Buchanan’s paper, “A Richer Jus Ad Bellum.” Buchanan calls for a more complete conception of jus ad bellum theorizing in this paper, which would include “[providing] guidance for the moral evaluation of the institutional processes within which leaders make decisions about going to war…[providing] criteria for morally evaluating domestic or international laws regarding resource to war,” and several more ideas not listed here (2). Overall, Buchanan claims that “comprehensive moral theorizing about war should include theorizing about how best to achieve practical aims” (2).
I believe his criticism of jus ad bellum is directly applicable to jus in bello questions, such as those related to the practice of targeted killing exercised through drone warfare. While Buchanan argues that “directly-action guiding rules leaders, combatants, and others…ought to employ” should be created to assist with the decision whether to go to war or not, I believe that these items, collectively titled heuristics, can guide the practice of targeted killing and thus the employment of drone warfare to a less questionably moral place (Buchanan 1).
There are three heuristics I will suggest that I believe can limit the negative effects of targeted killing (when executed with drones) so that the practice may not necessarily have to be completely abandoned. Firstly, the controversial tactic of “signature strikes” needs to be renounced by senior military and political officials immediately. A tactic used during Obama’s administration, these strikes “target people whose behavior is assessed to be similar enough to those of terrorists to mark them for death” (Ackerman).
Over time, these strikes could “assimilate into a norm of killing people without knowing exactly who they are,” which contributes to the destabilization of the civilian society experiencing the strikes (Ackerman). Unless targeted kills are conducted with more informational accuracy, they will continue to undermine the daily life of civilians and contribute to the effects of unintentional terrorism.
Secondly, targeted killing should be performed only when there is no risk of civilians being killed. While I acknowledge that conventional war tactics and weaponry often result in the death of civilians, and that these deaths can sometimes be justified with principles like the Doctrine of Double Effect, targeted killing should be utilized with a higher standard of care. Based on the experiences of the Pakistanis related earlier in this paper, the practice of targeted killing has had such significant detrimental effects that it demands stricter regulation than conventional tactics.
Finally, targeting killing is a practice that should be reserved to eliminate extremely high value targets only. If more care were taken to determine which targets were of the most importance, this would limit the number of targeted killings as not every victim ought to be labeled as high value. Overall, heuristics could be used to determine the proper type of situations in which to employ targeting killing through drone warfare so that the fear created by the tactic is not as distinctive as the fear caused by terrorism. This could provide a compromise between drone proponents and opponents, as their use would be limited but not eradicated.
Section VI: Conclusion
In conclusion, drone warfare should be utilized with caution as I believe it presents more significant moral issues than appreciated by Statman. While I agree that four of the objections Statman presents to drone warfare are unreasonable, I find his analysis of targeted killing incomplete. Statman believes that targeted killing is “far less problematic than critics would have us to believe,” which allows him to conclude that the connection between drone warfare and targeted killing does not present a “persuasive argument again the use of drones” (Statman 13).
In contrast, I believe targeted killing is extremely problematic, which undermines Statman’s argument for drone warfare. The fear created by targeted killing seems morally worse than the fear created by conventional war tactics and weaponry as it possesses one element seen in the fear caused by terrorism: surprise. While the fear created by targeted killing as a practice does not possess the element of purpose like the fear created by terrorism does, the surprise-laden fear produced by targeted killing seems to be an effect of unintentional terrorism, contributing to the wrongfulness of the practice and shedding doubt on the permissibility of drone warfare.
Buchanan’s paper inspired me to discuss actual heuristics leaders and drone operators could take to increase the moral acceptability of their employment of the practice of targeted killing. I hope these proposed heuristics can help leaders and soldiers “produce better decisions” in situations involving targeted killing that seem morally ambiguous. However, until more philosophical examination of targeted killing and drone warfare is conducted, these types of violence ought to be practiced much more limitedly than other conventional strategies.
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