It needs to be debated.
To me there are a lot of ambiguities, perhaps because I am not very ethically sophisticated.
Arguments can be made that drones "save" lives (American lives). American military personnel.
Some may argue that drones save civilian lives. I don't know what proof exists for that.
The troubling ethics:
Drone kills are clean (those doing the kills do not get blood on themselves, disregard what actually happens on the ground, there's a lot of blood), drone kills displace the killer in the same way that a gun does. Pull a trigger in either case and you can kill someone at a distance.
Unmanned weapons. Weapons that direct themselves at heat, heat emanating from something living -- without thought or consideration.
Tracy McVeigh (ironic name) holds forth in the Guardian:
Killer robots must be stopped, say campaignersSimply put, robotic warfare is immoral.
'Autonomous weapons', which could be ready within a decade, pose grave risk to international law, claim activists
A new global campaign to persuade nations to ban "killer robots" before they reach the production stage is to be launched in the UK by a group of academics, pressure groups and Nobel peace prize laureates.
Robot warfare and autonomous weapons, the next step from unmanned drones, are already being worked on by scientists and will be available within the decade, said Dr Noel Sharkey, a leading robotics and artificial intelligence expert and professor at Sheffield University. He believes that development of the weapons is taking place in an effectively unregulated environment, with little attention being paid to moral implications and international law.
The Stop the Killer Robots campaign will be launched in April at the House of Commons and includes many of the groups that successfully campaigned to have international action taken against cluster bombs and landmines. They hope to get a similar global treaty against autonomous weapons.
But then, warfare is immoral, though some may quibble about Bellum iustum, which I sardonically believe was ginned up to justify the Crusades, but then I am sometimes cynical and snarky and sneering about these religious convictions.
Robotic warfare is just another step beyond regular warfare. Or, a slippery slope, another cliche, a slope made slippery by the blood of many innocents, "collateral damage," the coy phrase the military industrial complex likes to use to trivialize these deaths of innocents, that which is incidental to the main objective, death and destruction ... of the so-called enemy.