“While drones have become the weapons of our age, the moral dilemma that drone warfare presents is not new. In fact, it is very, very old:
Once upon a time, in a quiet corner of the Middle East, there lived a shepherd named Gyges. Despite the hardships in his life Gyges was relatively satisfied with his meager existence. Then, one day, he found a ring buried in a nearby cave.
This was no ordinary ring; it rendered its wearer invisible. With this new power, Gyges became increasingly dissatisfied with his simple life. Before long, he seduced the queen of the land and began to plot the overthrow of her husband. One evening, Gyges placed the ring on his finger, sneaked into the royal palace, and murdered the king.
In his ‘Republic,’ Plato recounts this tale, but does not tell us the details of the murder. Still, we can rest assured that, like any violent death, it was not a pleasant affair. However, the story ends well, at least for Gyges. He marries the queen and assumes the position of king.
This story, which is as old as Western ethics itself, is meant to elicit a particular moral response from us: disgust. So why do we find Plato’s story so appalling?
Maybe it’s the way that the story replaces moral justification with practical efficiency: Gyges’ being able to commit murder without getting caught, without any real difficulty, does not mean he is justified in doing so. (Expediency is not necessarily a virtue.)”
John Kaag and Sarah Kreps, “The Moral Hazard of Drones”
This is a long read, but very much worth your time. Kaag and Kreps make a strong ethical case against drone warfare and the callous irresponsibility it tends to beget. As they write of Gyges, Obama’s (or any President’s) ability to “commit murder without getting caught, without any real difficulty, does not mean he is justified in doing so.”