The inexhaustible America-haters on our domestic left are absolutely correct that drones — unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs — are morally ambiguous weapons. All weapons of war are morally ambiguous, as are even “just wars” waged for purely defensive purposes. All wars violate a universal commandment: Thou shalt not kill.
But in this imperfect world, we sometimes must kill if we are to survive. In developed societies (such as our own) that strive toward moral behavior, killing enemies in a conflict is regulated by laws, conventions and ethics. At times, as in the city bombings of World War II, we cast our strictures aside in a desperate hour. But we really do our best to spare the innocent.
Warfare is imprecise, though, shaped by confusion and emotion as much as by plans. It’s unlikely that humans will ever eliminate war or find a way to wage it so “cleanly” that every noncombatant will be safe.
But — contrary to the reflexive claims of the left — UAVs mark a significant advance in sparing the innocent: morally ambiguous still, but less so than an artillery shell or a cruise missile.