Does automated drone technology encourage war? An ethical take with Brad Hirschfield (video)

Sep 20, 2011

Join Brad Hirschfield as he talks about the ethical and moral issues raised by the week's biggest stories.
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Hello and welcome. Today, we'll discuss the use of automated military drones, President Obama's "fair share" take on taxes, and the proposed changes to rules on harvesting organs. Let's get started.

I'm not sure I understand the problem. If the automated process the drones use to select targets is at least as good at identifying legitimate targets as humans, what is the difference? How does the degree of automation affect the moral decision? A human still makes the ultimate decision to kill target X, whether the decision is made at the time of mission assignment or when the trigger is pulled. The moral questions only come in at the decision point, the rest is technology. Am I missing something?

"Drones don't kill people, people do." There may not yet be a bumpersticker reading that. I favor drones because it makes warfare safer for our troops. Yet, does making war safer encourage decision makers to enter war more easily? Maybe I am too optimistic, but I hope that our leaders would seek to avoid war as much as possible and not rush to enter into it because it has become easier to fight.

I don't think drone warfare is good. It removes us from any real sense that we are killing, and distances us from the reality of war. While I don't like to see additional American lives being lost, drone warfare makes it just to easy to start war and not pay attention to the human lives, especially civilian lives, lost. It starts feeling like a video game with no real moral implications for our actions. Do you agree?

Greg W says: Drone attacks do not allow for taking Prisoners of War. What implications do the use of drones have for a right or opportunity to surrender? If drones are now a fact of modern war, should there not be an effort made for drones to allow an enemy fighter to surrender to a drone?

President Obama is talking about people earning over a million dollars paying more in taxes--what is wrong with that? He already stated he does not want it to come out of the pockets of those who can least afford it or are just making do. The wealthy should pay a greater share.

So what if it is class warfare ? As far as I can tell, we've had class warfare since the 1980's when the rich started their attacks on the poor.

What do you mean, if waiting costs lives? What about the donor? That person's life must come first. While I sympathize with those waiting for organs, you can't take them before a complete effort has been made to save the life of the potential donor.

Given that Judaism determines death to be "heart death," wouldn't all donations of vital organs be considered murder given that the organs become useless if the heart stops, hence why the people are on life support to keep the heart beating?

Today's last question: Your On Faith column yesterday critical of an atheist group that defaced Bibles during a protest has drawn a number of critical comments. Some are along the lines of: Is book burning or other symbolic defacement always wrong, or does there come any point where a text is sufficiently evil, like The Turner Diaries, that defacing it can be considered an acceptable method of protest? Is a text's status as holy by some group a shield against such use by those opposed to its contents?

In This Chat
Brad Hirschfield
Brad Hirschfield is the president of Clal - The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. He writes the For God's Sake blog for The Washington Post. A regular on Lou Dobbs Tonight on the Fox Business Network. he appears frequently on NPR, PBS, and CNN, and is routinely listed as one of America?s "most influential rabbis." His most recent book is You Don't Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism.
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