It would be easy to replace our current killing program with a slightly altered one with sufficient protections for innocent civilians, American citizens, and rule of law.
Plenty of pundits on the left and right still support targeted killing, as do voters, military brass, think-tank fellows, and Congressional majorities. It is nevertheless worth giving the issue another look, because the Obama Administration's apologists seldom acknowledge the strongest arguments against our particular drone policy. Their rhetoric, however effective, depends on a subtle, sometimes unconscious evasion. It's surprisingly easy for an interested observer to be led astray.
Can you spot the problem in the following arguments? Joshua Foust, a fellow at the American Security Project, acknowledges that unmanned aerial vehicles sometimes terrorize and kill innocents, but asks, "Is there a better alternative to drone strikes for counterterrorism in northwest Pakistan?" He concludes that, in the short run, there simply isn't. "The targets of drone strikes in Pakistan sponsor insurgents in the region that kill U.S. soldiers and destabilize the Pakistani state," he writes. "They cannot simply be left alone to continue such violent attacks."
Says David Frum, defending the extrajudicial killing of American citizens, "The practical alternative to drones isn't jury trials. It's leaving U.S. passport carrying terrorists alone unharmed to execute their plans." Max Boot in Commentary agrees that citizens are fair game. "Given the need to continue these drone strikes," he argues, "it would be silly and self-destructive to grant certain al-Qaeda figures immunity just because they happen to have American citizenship."