We have previously examined the analysis of philosophy professor Bradley Jay Strawser regarding the ethical basis for the use of armed drones, or as the military prefers to call them, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Strawser bases his argument on what he calls the “Principle of Unnecessary Risk”, or PUR. In his own words:
Since UAVs promise to remove unnecessary risk from the theater of battle, they are not just permissible, but ethically “obligatory”. Yet in fact, UAVs do not eliminate such risk at all, but rather transfer or displace that risk from a pilot to a remote operator. We are grateful for the brave young woman Heather Linebaugh, and her eloquent testimonial, published on December 29, 2013:
We note in particular her reference to increased suicide risk, as well as other symptoms that are identical to battlefield PTSD. Thus UAVs do not meet the PUR threshold for an ethically obligatory weapon.
Earlier today, we were relieved to read a few sane words from the pen of former secretary of defense and CIA director, Robert Gates:
We dream that technology will liberate us from the existential consequences of our violence, that if we sanitize the battlefield though enough gadgetry and virtuality, we will not have to watch the cruel snuff movies of the Forever War, forever on repeat.
When Robert Gates wept for the broken and the scarred, did he also examine his own conscience, regarding their fate? What has the endless violence in Iraq and Afghanistan actually achieved? Can even one death, or one shattered spirit, be justified?
And what about the estimated 461,000 Iraqi dead, most of them non-combattant civilians? Does Gates also see them in his “mind’s eye” and silently weep?