One characteristic of a wise decision is that it stands the test of time. The current US drone policy will be considered wise only if it can answer the questions raised above and more along these lines.
We know from history is that each time the US has gone to war it has been accompanied by an expression of restraint. Force and restraint go together. Drones are only the latest example of that paradox of war. The Civil War gave rise to the Lieber Code – rules of engagement later echoed in The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. The World Wars were followed by humanitarian principles enshrined in the Geneva Conventions.
Twenty-first century conflicts have given rise to new means for using force. New rules and moral expectations must follow. Creating those new rules is the vital work now to be undertaken. Congress, with executive input, is the proper venue. The confirmation hearings of the new national security team should be the beginning not the end of the process.
Joel H. Rosenthal is president of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.