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Drones and the Ethics of Targeted Killing

Kenneth R. Himes, OFM

Drones have become an essential part of U.S. national security strategy, but most Americans know little about how they are used, and we receive conflicting reports about their outcomes. In Drones and the Ethics of Targeted Killing, ethicist Kenneth R. Himes provides not only an overview of the role of drones in national security but also an important exploration of the ethical implications of drone warfare—from the impact on terrorist organizations and civilians to how piloting drones shapes soldiers.

Targeted killings have played a role in politics from ancient times through today, so the ethical challenges around how to protect against threats are not new. Himes leads readers through the ethics of targeted killings in history from ancient times to the contemporary Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then looks specifically at the new issues raised through the use of drones. This book is a powerful look at a pressing topic today.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 212Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4422-3155-9 • Hardback • September 2015 • $75.00 • (£49.95)
978-1-4422-3156-6 • Paperback • September 2015 • $24.95 • (£15.95)
978-1-4422-3157-3 • eBook • September 2015 • $22.95 • (£15.95)
Kenneth R. Himes, OFM, is associate professor of moral theology at Boston College. He is the author or coeditor of several books, including Christianity and the Political Order, Modern Catholic Social Teaching, and Responses to 101 Questions on Catholic Social Teaching. He regularly contributes to publications such as America and Theological Studies.
List of Acronyms

1. Understanding Targeted Killing and Drones
The Language of Killing
Targeted Killing Today
Drones: Their Nature and Use
Remote Killing
Legal, Policy, and Moral Concerns

2. The Distant Contexts of the Debate
Targeted Killing in the Classical World
Targeted Killing and Ancient Israel
Tyrannicide in the Christian Tradition

3. The Proximate Context: Israel and the Intifada
Israeli Public Debate
The High Court of Justice
Takeaways from the Israeli Experience

4. The Immediate Context: The U.S. War on Terrorism
The Obama Administration’s Policy
A Public Killing
A Public Hearing
Speaking in Public
The President’s Speech
How Does an Individual Become a Target?
How Is a Targeted Killing Implemented?
Summing Up

5. The Future Context: Addressing the Moral Issues
Death and Harm to Civilians
Last Resort
Strategic Success
Perpetual War
Bad Precedents
Drones and Democracy
Final Thoughts

Ken Himes' latest book, Drones and the Ethics of Targeted Killing...represents what I hope will be the first of many steps toward re-shaping the discussion of the ethics, legality, and wisdom of contemporary military operations. . . .I recommend the book...because Himes is asking all the right questions. In the hard ethical work that lies before us, Drones and the Ethics of Targeted Killing represents a necessary and timely contribution.
Journal of Military Ethics

Kenneth Himes has provided a balanced, well-researched, and readable guide to the issues. His central purpose is to bring just war theory to bear on the targeting of individuals who are not on active battlefields. An associate professor of theology at Boston College, Himes dedicates the book to the students he’s taught over the years, and that is fitting: it is the sort of book one would expect from a fair and dedicated teacher because it explains complex topics clearly and presents both sides of fraught moral debates.
The Christian Century

In grappling so prudently with the ethics of new technologies that intersect with very old moral quandaries regarding the justification of targeted killing, H[imes] produces a veritable masterpiece of ethical analysis. . . .In meeting the challenge of adapting established principles to new global conditions that may alter our evaluation of the use of force, it is hard to imagine a more insightful guide than H[imes].
Theological Studies

The chapters taken individually on the Christian tradition, the use of the just war tradition in public debate, US government policy in favour of drone use and ethical reflections on the US government’s use of drones each stand alone as solid introductions to their respective fields of enquiry.

Himes has written a broadly designed, strategically precise, and morally insightful analysis of two major issues in U.S. policy: targeted killings and drones. Both topics yield intense debate in the United States and around the world; the intensity of the debate at times obscures the issues or fails to provide sufficient breadth of analysis. Himes’s work provides a remedy. Two principal characteristics of this work are its lucidity and fairness in addressing contested questions. Himes draws in detail on technical and strategic literature and combines this with moral and legal analysis. While much of the book is focused on the wars since 9-11, Himes recognizes that both of his topics will extend into the future because of the nature of contemporary conflicts. The book deserves a wide audience and is guaranteed a long shelf life.
J. Bryan Hehir, Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

The ethics of war is often accused of neither anticipating future fighting technologies nor keeping up with current developments in arms and tactics. Although I wish this book had been around at least a decade ago, it is definitely better a tad late than never! With Drones and the Ethics of Targeted Killing, Kenneth R. Himes provides the most up-to-date and thorough treatment of drones and their use for targeted killings. The book displays historical breadth—probing the ethics of various types of targeted killing, including tyrannicide and assassination—from the ancient world to the present day. It also possesses depth—exploring the nature and use of drones, with particular and detailed attention given to Israel and the Intifada and the U.S. policy of using drones in its war against terrorists. For anyone interested in a careful moral evaluation, offered by one of today's leading ethicists, of drone usage as a kind of targeted killing, this is a must-read.
Tobias Winright, Hubert Mäder Chair of Health Care Ethics, Saint Louis University

In his analysis of the emerging discourse of targeted killing, Kenneth R. Himes carefully examines the blurring of categories traditionally used for the justification of political killings—the paradigm of law enforcement and the just war tradition. This book will serve as an important source for anybody interested in the history and political-ethical context of killing in the political sphere.
Hille Haker, Richard A. McCormick, SJ, Chair of Catholic Moral Theology, Loyola University Chicago

Filled with powerful real life stories about the impact of drones and targeted killings—from international politics to the impact on pilots

Introduces readers to the basics of drone warfare

Provides an overview of the history of targeted killings—from ancient times to contemporary Israel–Palestine

Discusses conflicting responses to the use of drones for targeted killings from sources such as the UN, the media, within the military, the National Security Agency, and more

Draws on the legacy of Christian ethics and the just war tradition to examine the ethics of drones today