NOTE: Bradley Strawser has written to me and strongly protested the way he was portrayed in this article. He is making a formal complaint to the independent ombudsman at The Guardian and has also published this op-ed to correct some of what he feels are misrepresentations of his views. –Abbas Raza
Bradley Strawser in The Guardian:
In the contentious debate over drone warfare, it is necessary to separate US government policy from the broader moral question of killing by aerial robots. The policy question deserves vigorous debate by legal scholars, policy experts, and diplomats. The moral question posed by this new form of remote warfare is more abstract and has only recently begun to receive critical examination by philosophers and ethicists.
The Guardian has attempted to feature the distinct moral and philosophical side of this issue, and a recent story profiled my own views on the topic. Unfortunately – if understandably, given the complexities of the matter – I consider some of my views were misrepresented. Most disturbingly, I was reported to claim that “there's no downside” to killing by drones. In fact, the majority of my work on drones is dedicated to elucidating and analyzing the serious moral downsides that killing by remote control can pose. The Guardian has graciously offered me this space to set the record straight.
My view is this: drones can be a morally preferable weapon of war if they are capable of being more discriminate than other weapons that are less precise and expose their operators to greater risk. Of course, killing is lamentable at any time or place, be it in war or any context. But if a military action is morally justified, we are also morally bound to ensure that it is carried out with as little harm to innocent people as possible.