So, I just watched Eye in the Sky and I have to say it’s spot on for the arguments being bandied about all over today. The basic plot is a debate on the legitimacy of using drone strikes on any target, on “high value” targets, and every point in between. I want to clarify now, without any reservation, that any loss of civilian life in a military operation is horrible, and I am very glad that the military forces of the civilized world do all they can to avoid that very thing. Sadly, it’s not possible to completely remove that possibility, and that fact, often, results in decisions that are not only all but impossible to make, but weight heavily on those making them, and those they then order to act.
Without spoiling the movie, I want to ask a question, so I’ll set up a scenario that is far from what the movie shows. The FBI gets intelligence on a group based somewhere in the U.S. planning a massive strike on an urban center. This attack will cost hundreds their lives. Men, women and children WILL DIE if this attack is not prevented. Now, the ring leaders are on the most wanted list, and so, have been being hunted for a long time prior to this intelligence coming in, and that hunt leads the FBI to the safe house being used to prepare for this attack. Part of this situation could include citizens of countries friendly to the U.S., so they will of course let those governments know that one of their citizens, who is on the most wanted list, may be killed. The friendly governments will agree to act, grudgingly perhaps, but the benefits of stopping an attack outweigh wanting a show trial.
Now, once approval is given, let’s look at the target area. We’ll set this at a cabin in Nebraska, at least 100 yards from the nearest home. The targets are all inside, preparing, but at the very last minute, another person shows up, and halts everything. We won’t go into who this person is, we’ll just say that their presence is enough for many people to question if the strike should happen. So, the question, would you let an attack happen that will, with almost 100% certainty, cost hundreds of lives, to save one? You’ve been briefed on what these people can do if they leave, and the likelihood of stopping them is less than 5%, as they will leave in more than one group, and only one can be followed. You can’t go in on foot, as they will slaughter your forces. What do you do?
I’ll stop here, so as not to spoil the movie. Alan Rickman, as always, gives a performance that leaves you with goosebumps. So, comment here, or on the tweet, or write your own post somewhere. The question, while it doesn’t seem so, is actually a simple one. If you could act with certainty of minimal collateral damage to save hundreds, would you? It’s almost the same question that comes up in the gun control debate, if you had to choose between killing one person or watching that person kill one or more person you love, could you pull the trigger? I have my handgun license, and every time I carry my weapon off my land, I pray I won’t need to even consider drawing it, let alone use it. But, if I could prevent an innocent being killed, I would pull the trigger, even though I know that means counseling, possible criminal and civil repercussions, and far more, for years.
So, your thoughts?