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Remote control killing of humans. Is there any way we can justify it?

For the last so many years , one country is involved in using drones to end human life in parts of another country, far away from its geographical borders. Without getting into the right or wrongs of the motives in doing so, is this what human knowledge is for. Has the humanity travelled this far to end human life in such a miserable way , if there is a decent way to end human life at all. Is there an end to revenge ? Can we put limits on the extent a country can go and kill humans in the name of war? Where is our human civilization?

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    Mar 20 2012: There is no justification for killing. Period.

    Anybody who attempts to justify killing another human being does not hold he other human being as being as equally valuable as themselves, and thus they are direct conflict with a mandate greater than any human law.

    But there is something truly heinous about drone attacks. There is a commercial here in the US, an ad for the military - it showed a drone in flight, then showed the soldier in the command center, then it showed him going home to eat dinner with the wife and family.

    When I saw this commercial I wept. At that joment I realized that we as a nation have finally divorced ourselves from seeing other countries as anything other than some concept, nothing more than a shape on a map. To think that we can bomb from the other side of the world and then go home as though it were just any other day at the office, any other normal job, well,my friends, that is the loss of civilization, because at least when we are face to face on the battlefield we have to face the knowledge that we are taking another human life. Now, even that knowledge we can deny ourselves.

    Drones will become more prevalent because we can kill more of "them" and lose fewer of "us". I say, God help us.
    • Mar 21 2012: I disagree. I think people have the right and moral high ground for defending their freedom, their lives and if asked, to help others defend themselves.

      Afghan people have the right to have freedom and to live as they please. Similarly people in Libya had no other option than to engage in self defense and defeat of Gaddaffi. They had the right to ask for help.

      It is unfortunate that people die but at some point you need to defend your families and your freedom of self determination. If possible, enemy fighters should be imprissoned but that is not always the option esp. if they are tolerated or even supported in a neighbouring state.

      As long as the cause of drone strike is clearly just I don't see an issue with using drones to minimize casualties. It is a weapon as any other and typically it prevents loss of civilian and military lives. The purpose is to kill fighters and leaders that have complete disregards to human life, and kill those who disagree with their radical beliefs including women and children.
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        Mar 21 2012: I thank you for your disagreement and your post. Your thoughts are well considered and I respect your viewpoint even if I have come to disagree, even though I understand it.

        Drone only minimise our casualities, and increase theirs. They make us feel as though we are killing "bad guys" who will kill women and children. But do not the drones also kill women and children?

        But to get straight to the heart of the matter, why is always our first and highest form of justification for killing is that, we have to kill them before they kill us? I proposing something radically countercultural to our human understanding, and stop pretending we have any justification for killing, and realise that to wage war is to lean on our own understanding because we have no faith that God will protect us, and that we are in open defiance of His second great command, to love others as we love ourselves.

        Even those who do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah do not dispute this teaching, "what good does it do you just to love your friends? Any scumbag does that. If you really want to have the moral high ground, love your enemies."

        Love never comes with s drone attack.
        • Mar 21 2012: "Drone only minimise our casualities, and increase theirs. They make us feel as though we are killing "bad guys" who will kill women and children. But do not the drones also kill women and children? "

          Yes we minimize our causalities and increase theirs. Here we are talking about Taliban and their war against their own people. Is there a reason why we should not minimize our casualties?

          Unfortunately in rare cases women and children might be killed. We should look for a way to prevent this from happening. However in this scenario if we do leave the fighters alone we will see much more killing happening (majority of civil deaths in Afghanistan is caused by fighters). It seems that drones actually decrease the number of civilian deaths?

          "But to get straight to the heart of the matter, why is always our first and highest form of justification for killing is that, we have to kill them before they kill us?"

          We should try to negotiate with the other party in order to prevent any killing. At the same time we need to protect general population from being submitted to a Taliban regime because millions of people esp. women will suffer and die as a consequence.

          I think it is fairly easy for us to proclaim that we stop killing Taliban fighters while at the same time we comfortable sit in front of a computer with no worries about our personal safety and freedom. We don't need to worry that kids brainwashed into blowing themselves will kill our neighbors and families while shopping in a local market. We do not expect fighters coming to hour houses. Women do not fear execution if they demand equality and freedom to work, vote and educate themselves.

          I suggest that you watch this TED videos:

          Lets hope that Afghan people can soon take over security of their people and defend themselves.
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    Mar 24 2012: Naeem,

    We can't justify any killing of humans, via any means.

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    Mar 23 2012: In my opinion remote killing is immoral and cowardly - and I refer to the use of drones, roadside IDR's, minefields etc. Modern warfare’s use of bombs and other indiscriminate weapons leaves little regard for non-combatants, be they men, women, children or animals and birds. All life is important once it's here on earth. I’d be happier to see either the return of face to face professional warriors fighting with swards or, preferably, a nice civilized game of chess. Alternatively, we could accept that people from all over the world have divergent opinions, lifestyles, faiths, fashions, diets etc… and just get on with living.
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      Mar 26 2012: That's one thing you have to day for medieval warfare: All the serfs had to do was farm the land - it was the upper classes that had to go to war, fight on the battlefield, die by the sword.

      If today, the case were true that only the children of the upper classes were forced by society to go to war, I dare say there would be a lot fewer conflicts.
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    Mar 23 2012: For every cent invested in education or health, there's a dollar invested in the military. This is the logical consequence.
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    Mar 20 2012: what difference does it make whether they use drones or knives? killing is killing.
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      Mar 20 2012: I am sure Krisztian you'd prefer to die of a drone :)
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        Mar 20 2012: as opposed to a knife? sure, at least it is interesting. but my choice is falling in a black hole.
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          Mar 20 2012: Interesting is one thing but it is sure quicker and less painful. God bless civilization!
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          Mar 20 2012: I''m with Kriztian on this one. Black hole for me, too!
  • Mar 25 2012: “remote control killing of humans...?” somehow the question appears to imply as if (1) what is critical is the means employed for killing, and (2) that the value of ‘life’, or meaningless termination of it is, more distressing, traumatic and impactful, for one particular species viz. humans, over all others. Shouldn’t the real question be is there ever a real justification for destroying life?
  • Mar 24 2012: I have a feeling. Human life has become a disposable item, like most of the items surrounding us. As long as some one else is suffering, its perfectly fine. We have become a lab for testing modern warfare. Peace is all we seek.
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      Mar 24 2012: I think any person moral should and will seek peace.
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    Mar 22 2012: Gee, I know you guys are probably tired of me quoting my favorite saviour, but He pretty much said, "Don't kill.". He said, "Love your enemy.". He addressed the subject of teaching by saying, "hey, before you even think about praying to Me, go first and resolve any and every little conflict you've got with anybody.". (and by resolve, he meant 'make peace' !)

    Ergo, there is no justification for killing. None. Look, I know the reasons that make us all feel good about oursevles: we kill them because they will kill more if we don't, they will never stop killing so why should we, but let's at the very least be honest with ourselves and say, "we wage war because it makes us feel like we're right.".

    I know this sounds countercultural, but TED is supposed to be the place for brave ideas, so let me be bold here and suggest that maybe we should stop the drone attacks and see what happens. The DoD last month issued a statement that 71% of drone attack kills are our enemies. To me, that means 29% are not. Almost 1/3rd? Wouldn't a logical assumption be that e 29% non combatant casualities influence family, friends, fellow countrymen to be more antagonistic against the US?

    I say,we must stop the drone attacks becuase they are immoral (just as war is itself immoral), but if we are not going to, let's at the very least be honest with ourselves that we have made a value judgement that says a foreign national has less reason to live than we do.
    • Mar 23 2012: I understand where you are coming from but did you realize that people were are talking about do not consider your saviour theirs? I think the only common ground for everyone involved is to exclude religion from this and instead focus on what this is about.

      One group of people wants to oppress millions of people and impose their extreme beliefs on them, killing thousands in the process. Other group is trying to help those same people to protect themselves so that they can live normal lives.

      Whether drone attacks will happen or not, innocent people will die. You are only choosing to let whole Afghan population suffer rather than militants and occasionally civilians. Do you even have the right to make such choice?

      I regularly send money to a society that provides education to Afghan women. I know that they are afraid of extremists because education for women is forbidden by Taliban. What do you suggest can be done about this?

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        Mar 23 2012: I very much respect your viewpoint, because you care about protecting the lives of innocents and you definitely want to see a better world. You also seem to view war as a necessary hardship for the greater good.

        Since we are now talking about helping people build better lives so they can defend against extremists and murderers, I agree that one of the best ways is to support organizations that promote things such as the education of women, like the one you mentioned.

        My deep concern is this: what if that kind of support is what the people truly need? What if that is the message of peace that will instill in them the desire to stand strong against insurgents who murder?

        And what if that message is never delivered, because the majority of the people who live in is remote land will never truly see the message of those organizations that want to build a society, but all they ever see of us is an unmanned aircraft that drops bombs, destroys targets, that almost 1/3rd of the time includes a neighbor or a family member?

        I will never remove Christ from the equation of any of my my arguments, because I have to do my best to promote his message of being lights for peace. But even those who don't believe can surely see the logic that drone bombs lead to Naeem's question: Where is the civilization of people who kill from such a far off distance? He's essentially asking us what happened to our humanity? That is not the question of someone who understands that when we occasionally kill civilians, we're only doing it for the greater good.
        • Mar 23 2012: I agree that Afghan people need our support. Unfortunately most of their neighboring countries want to use them for their own interests. In practical terms they need to be able to defend themselves and US is trying to do just that.

          US army and civil institutions (and European countries) are spending billions of dollars trying to build public institutions and services. It is a slow and hard process.

          Yes US could do a better job in Afghanistan but with minimum support from US public they are running out of time and resources. Drone attacks, while theoretically a bad solution, is practical tool that keeps US casualties low while US is helping to build Afghan society.

          It seems that some good progress is being made in terms of training local Afghan army and police. Hopefully Afghan people will take on US duties soon.

  • Dan F

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    Mar 22 2012: Obviously, this question is directed at the USA.

    Of course, the ultimate drone for killing is the intercontinental ballistic missile.

    I am unimpressed with our foreign policy. I'm personally ready for a U turn.

    The course we are on is not promising and currently it seems we are only trying to do things wrong better. We can't and perhaps shouldn't try to fix the rest of the world, nor can we, or should we depend on other countries for our needs unless it is clearly a reciprocal arrangement of mutual interest.

    I do believe killing can be and is justified and coming home doesn't mean the world situation would become less dangerous. Our leverage for influence is our wealth, and military assets. That leverage will not go unnoticed, but it can be squandered.

    The citizens of the USA are multicultural and smart. That also givers us an edge in credibility when our policies are sound and supported.
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    E G

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    Mar 21 2012: Come on man , you know your goverment plays dirty .......... don't expect the other side to be more gentle .
  • Mar 21 2012: I am learning from my learned colleagues..... lets see how far civilization is ready to go. best wishes to every one.
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    Mar 21 2012: Surely if the ending of a person's life is required, it is better to do this with unmanned drones if we hold that technology, rather than placing other lives in risk to do so?
  • Mar 20 2012: Is self defense a just cause? Is there a way to justify or avoid killing fighters that have complete disregard about human life and freedoms and go on a killing spree? Is it justified if a country supports and tolerates terrorists within its borders?
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      Mar 21 2012: I think justifying any kind death is hard. Wether it's an act of war, murder, or execution. I personally I would love to put a limit on how many people a country is allowed to kill in a war. The act of taking a life should be absolute final answer to any dangerous situation. I say we should promote, diplomacy but teach self defense.
      But there has to be better way to defend or fight back without loss. At least I hope there is.
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        Mar 21 2012: Correct me if I am wrong, but the idea of puting limits on the number of fatalities each side of a conflict can score is outright ridiculus and absurd.

        "there is one left in our allotment, let's go hunting!"
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          Mar 21 2012: Not only "let's go hunting" but what about when you or your comrades are in danger and taking a life is the only way to save a life? "sorry madam but your husband was killed because we were out of allotted killings!"
        • Mar 21 2012: I think we all agree that killing should be the last resort.

          What I think is important is to make transparent (which wikileaks tried to some degree?) what the military is exactly doing and have someone independent review their actions.

          Diplomacy should always be the first venue, however at the same time civilians should be protected and we should also minimize the loss of lives of people protecting them?

          Whenever possible, enemy fighters should be imprisoned to face a trial.
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          Mar 21 2012: What I meant by limit was I love would put it to 0.
          Of Course it's a crack pipe dream. If I had my way wars would be a mma match between the leaders of both factions. But its never gonna be like that.
          And I don't think soldiers face trial unless they committed some sort of crime mass murder of civilians. I think the winning sides should put the opposing sides leader and high ranking officers on trail. Because soldiers were doing what they told they had to do.
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          Mar 21 2012: Zdenek,

          I think what Wikileaks was doing was putting the whole mission in Afghanistan under extreme pressure. Winning the hearts and minds of the people is the only way to be successful in this conflict. This cannot be done when the names of those who assist the coalition are published online for all to see.

          I do agree with you that diplomacy should be the first option but as I'm sure you are aware, this is not always possible and some people are just not willing to be captured to face trial!
        • Mar 23 2012: Hi Alexander,

          I think Wikileaks carefully removed identities of people in the documents. While I agree that Wikileaks actions were perhaps not optimal, we do need military and politicians to make their decisions and actions more transparent so that we can prevent another un-just Iraq-like war?

          Yes diplomacy does not always works if negotiating parties have no common goals or one side is extremist.

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          Mar 23 2012: I think we do need organizations like Wikileaks to help get rid of this romantic idea that there is nobility in war. We do need a government and a military but, I think most modern politicians are more involved with getting votes and making rather than making a change. But is it our sad doomed fate as a species to never do away with war or to remain divided on it?
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      Mar 21 2012: killing is justified as a last resort to stop serious crimes, like murder or rape.
      • Mar 21 2012: I agree. However how do you stop an organization that is trying to force their beliefs on its population using any means necessary?
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    Mar 20 2012: As Krisztian already said, killing is killing, no matter what the tools are.
    The real question is when (if ever) is killing justified at all ?
  • Mar 20 2012: Hi Naeem,

    "War is hell." - American Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman.

    He was right then, and still is now. Once a country has been brought into a war it is their government's duty to prosecute the war in the manner that results in the fewest casualties for its citizens. Some combatants go so far as to prosecute the war in a manner that produces the fewest civilian casualties possible. Nonetheless, Sherman's words are as true now as they were in 1865.

    Best wishes,
    Doug Bell
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    Mar 20 2012: Remote control means to cause an event to take place without personally being present at the exact site of the event. Leaders have been doing it for centuries. Using non-human mechanisms to control events remotely is still remote control. It is a way for warring nations to conserve human resources. Perhaps one day no human resources will be lost in action. It's a good thing.
  • Mar 20 2012: Man has always found ways to justify killing. War is a failure of mankind to rise to higher values. Some people have found alternative ways to solve conflicts and they live in their culture peacefully and confident of security. These same persons also live on a planet with everyone else, including those who have not yet discovered the better way of peaceful methods for resolving conflict. Therefore, none of us-----yes, all of us, are not yet fully secure in this world!

    What bothers me is that we likely will have more and more terrible wars before those backward thinking persons finally die or learn peace through terrible experience. It is not forward thinking to rely on well demonstrated terribleness and backwardness of war. We need real forward thinking leaders who insist on turning away from war as a method of peace. What is real peace is mutual satisfaction of finding a resolution without war. What real inner peace is there in feeling defeated and oppressed by a stronger enemy? Resentment prevails in this option.

    Real satisfaction, security, peace, happiness, etc increases in finding peaceful methods. Have we not tested war long enough? Why would any nation want to make more weapons and create larger armies when we know war is terrible?

    What causes war? Would not we humans be smarter to better understand causes and find ways to reduce and eliminate causes?

    When mankind finally sees the better way, there will no longer be justification or rationale for killing!

    What say others?

    Peace is good,
  • Mar 20 2012: I don't believe there are any justifications for warfare in general. Using drones is just another way of protecting American soldiers, in that they don't have to go and do the actual fighting themselves. But then, lives are lost in either scenario. It is very sad that human kind have developed technology that would allow for one person from across the world to decide whether someone lives or die with a command or a click of a button.