Judging a book by its first letter

Several commenters have chastised me for "ignoring" the fact that Trump authorized a drone strike that apparently has killed at least one child.

If that happened, I am truly sorry. That's not a good thing.

However... let's go back to 2001. I will explain how I understand the just way to undertake military operations.

Let us assume that the attribution of the 9/11 attacks to Osama bin Laden was correct. If so, I believe the US had to "go after" him militarily. What I would have done, had I been in charge, would have been to notify the Taliban, then the ruling power in Afghanistan, "We are sorry you've been occupied with civil war etc., and haven't been able to rid yourselves of bin Laden. But as such, we are going to have to violate your sovereignty in order to take him out ourselves. As long as you stay out of our way, we will leave you alone."

This would be consistent with eliminating threats to Americans' safety, while not attempting "to impose our way of life on other countries." This would have been a much more limited engagement than Bush undertook, at least if the Taliban were sensible and did stay our of our way.

Nevertheless, some innocent people would have died in executing my program. Military action is a terrible thing, and should only be undertaken when necessary, precisely because the effects of it are not subject to fine control. The innocent deaths would be very unfortunate, but so long as the use of military force was called for, and done in a way to minimize such deaths, while still succeeding in the military goal, I believe they would not have been morally blameworthy.

Fast forward to 2017. Trump ordered a drone strike that may have killed innocent people. Was it morally blameworthy?

Given the secrecy that does, and to some extent must, accompany such operations, neither you nor I know. Was there good reason to think the strike would be likely to take out only actors known to be planning terrorist strikes agains the US? Did the military do everything they could to see that as few innocents as possible would die in taking out these terrorists? Trying to answer these questions by looking at a single action is completely impossible, unless you happen to have a position at the highest levels of the US national security apparatus.

I say we can only pass judgment on Trump's policy in this regard, given our unavoidable ignorance of the secret intelligence behind planning such strikes, by looking at, over months and even years, the effects of his decisions. To jump to a conclusion based on a single event is very closely analogous to judging a book by the fact that it starts with a letter you don't like.

I am hoping Trump kills fewer innocent Muslim non-combatants than his predecessors. I am sure the number he kills will continue to be greater than zero, throughout his presidency. But if that number is less than Bush and less than Obama, it represents an improvement, right? And if it is significantly less, well, that would be a significant improvement.

But if turns out that there is no improvement... well, anti-Trumpers, then I am fully ready to join you in opposition to his foreign policy.

UPDATE: Apparently, this strike had been planned for months by Obama. So Trump was allowing it to go forward, but had not actually created the plan.

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