Fall 2016

Just & Unjust Targeted Killing & Drone Warfare

Michael Laban Walzer

Targeted killing in the “war on terror” and in war generally is subject to familiar and severe moral constraints. The constraints hold across the board; they don't change when drones are the weapon of choice. But the ease with which drones can be used, the relative absence of military risks and political costs, makes it especially tempting not only to use drones more and more, but also to relax the constraining rules under which they are used. It seems clear that the rules have, in fact, been relaxed in the course of the American experience with drone warfare – by presidential decision and without public debate. This essay is an argument for the opening up of the decision process to democratic scrutiny and in defense of the familiar constraints.

MICHAEL WALZER, a Fellow of the American Academy since 1971, is Professor Emeritus of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study. He was for many years the Coeditor of Dissent and a contributing editor to The New Republic. He is the author of Just and Unjust Wars (1977), Spheres of Justice (1983), Thick and Thin: Moral Argument at Home and Abroad(1994), and, most recently, The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counter-revolutions (2015).

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