The Lawfare Podcast

Lawfare Podcast Episode #62: Benjamin Wittes and Conor Friedersdorf Debate the Ethics of Drones

By Ritika Singh
Saturday, February 15, 2014, 1:55 PM

Last November, the University of Richmond invited Ben and Conor Friedersdorf to participate in a debate on the ethics of drone warfare. Conor is a familiar voice in the anti-drone camp, as those who have come across his articles in The Atlantic well know. I edited the podcast version of the debate for length and got rid of the introductions and audience questions. It thus proceeds as four speeches: Ben and Conor each give opening remarks, in that order, and then each responds to the other.

While the back-and-forth touched on the legal issues behind targeted killing, it was really about the many ethical implications, both positive and negative, of U.S. drone policy. These range from the precedent the United States sets in the international community, to the psychological effects of drones on civilians. In a discussion that can often focus on the big issues of civilian casualties, oversight, legality, and sovereignty, these other questions can get lost in the foray. But as Al Qaeda continues to morph and the United States struggles to define the boundaries of the war it has been fighting, they are more important than ever.