Sunday’s New York Times reports what a long accumulation of evidence has already established: the policy of the United States is to kill rather than capture terrorist suspects. One reason, predictably, is that drone strikes are safer to U.S. troops than surgical capture operations. One assumes this is true, and the reason is compelling. It ought to be factored into prudential judgments alongside considerations of liberty and diplomacy, among others.
But it also put me in mind of a classroom conversation in which students made the same claim: namely, that drones were safer to U.S. troops and drones were therefore not only morally defensible but morally imperative. To this they added the fact that the risk of killing the wrong person or innocent bystanders was incident to the risk of them killing larger numbers of Americans. Significantly, in their mind, this concluded the argument in absolute terms, which is to say that any claim of danger to U.S. troops or citizens was itself a showstopper.