Zahl's contribution is puzzling, to put it charitably. He makes two points, both of which are hard to take seriously.
First, it's wrong, he claims, to conduct war when one side in the fight doesn't see the effects of their actions. The United States Air Force and the CIA operate predator drones thousands of miles away from the intended targets. There's no possibility of making eye contact with the enemy and fully realizing the human cost of the attack. If we could see the carnage we caused we'd be much more judicious in our use of force.
Be all that as it may, where does it say in just war theory, or anywhere else, that a conflict is waged morally only if the consequences are visible? Zahl acknowledges that his criterion would rule out aerial bombing and artillery strikes, and believes these are also wrong. Apparently, for him the only acceptable warfare is hand to hand combat.
His second reason for thinking that the use of drone aircraft is wrong is that unmanned predator drones prevent war from being "a fair fight". Here's why:
They emasculate the enemy. I use emasculate intentionally, because our victims live in societies where male humiliation is a fate almost worse than death. This method of fighting reduces people on the ground to a condition of absolute helplessness, because they cannot fight back against unmanned drones.Well, yes, but war does that. People resent it when they're being shot at, even if accidentally. It's a little odd of Zahl to take the position that we'd be better off sending troops into Pakistan to fight and die than to use missiles. Wouldn't the presence of U.S. troops cause at least as much resentment as do drone strikes? What guarantee is there that combat troops would cause fewer inadvertent casualties than missiles do?
This reduction of the enemy to absolute helplessness is good for us, you may say. It means we can't lose! But it also creates resentment in the people we are fighting.
It's also strange that Zahl thinks war has to be a "fair fight" in order to be moral. How could there ever be a completely fair fight? One side will always have an advantage over the other and if they didn't the conflict would result only in a standoff. Is it unfair that our troops are better trained and equipped than the enemy? Is it unfair that our military uses satellites and aircraft for reconnaissance?
The other contributions in the column seem more reasonable than Dr. Zahl's. Indeed, Bell makes the point that it's not the technology of war that is at issue in determining the morality of its execution, but the virtue of the combatants.
I'm with him.