Drones: Is It Wrong to Kill by Remote Control?
Image: Illustration by Amanda Duffy

It's an Unfair Fight

Paul F. M. Zahl is president emeritus of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry and the author of Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life (Eerdmans).

America's use of unmanned predator drones to kill people by remote control is laying up for us a harvest of judgment to come. And I don't mean just the judgment of God, but also an enduring hatred of our country on the part of defenseless people, especially in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

There are two primary reasons for this. First, it is wrong to conduct war when one side in the fight does not see the mortal results. The United States Air Force and the CIA operate predator drones thousands of miles away from the intended targets.

From our side, the operation proceeds entirely through the filter of a far-away video camera. There is no possibility of making eye contact with the enemy and fully realizing the human cost of the attack.

This argument is useful against many forms of combat, including almost all air bombings. George Bell, the bishop of Chichester in the Church of England during World War II, used to carry in his pocket photographs of charred human remains from Royal Air Force bombing missions in Germany. He argued that if the British pilots could just look at those photographs, they would refuse to fly any more missions.

The same thing applies to predator drones. A technician can sit in front of a console at Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas and conduct a lethal operation while being entirely insulated from the thing he or she is doing. (Incidentally, the number of innocent casualties of drone attacks may be much higher than official reports, based on credible reports from people on the ground.)

In addition, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
From Issue:
Read These Next
Also in this Issue
Gender Debate: SBC Pastors Denounce NIV Subscriber Access Only
Southern Baptist delegates passed a resolution criticizing the 2011 update and asked LifeWay stores not to sell the Bible translation.
RecommendedThe Seven Levels of Lying
The Seven Levels of LyingSubscriber Access Only
We lie more than we think. And that's part of the problem.
TrendingForgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Amid ISIS attacks, faithful response inspires Egyptian society.
Editor's PickWho’s In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?
Who’s In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?
The age of the Internet has birthed a crisis of authority, especially for women.
Christianity Today
Drones: Is It Wrong to Kill by Remote Control?
hide thisAugust August

In the Magazine

August 2011

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.