Drone policy lacks cohesion

OlympiaDecember 28, 2012 

Iranian fighter jets fired on a U.S. unmanned, unarmed drone over international waters just before the election. Setting aside motives about why the public didn’t hear about it until after the election, or why the Iranians would shoot at a drone, let’s ask some ethical questions.

Iran certainly has the right to protect its air space, but our drone wasn’t in it. Though we didn’t or couldn’t shoot back, the U.S. has the right to defend its representatives from attack in international airspace (unless the ambassador is there, but that is another story). But what if we had armed our drone with an air-to-air missile and had shot down one or both of the Iranians? Is an attack on a mere unmanned machine grounds for a lethal response? Certainly the Taliban have a right to fire on our unmanned drones since the president has drawn up a list of Taliban he wants killed and drones are apparently as ethical as an artillery round to blast his targets. But do the Taliban’s allies have the right to attack drones not yet in Taliban air space? Do the drones have the right to aggressively defend themselves? (I know the Taliban have no air space but you get my point.)

Since we apparently have no people in the administration thinking ahead about embassy security, I doubt we have anyone thinking about this. But the ethical consequences of it are troublesome, as are the unintended consequences of so many of Obama’s decisions.

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