I think it's easier to perform the moral calculus when you are the ones blowing up children and not the ones having your children blown up. I think, upon a little contemplation, you would have to agree.
You may certainly come to a different conclusion, but I dont believe that I am obfuscating, at least not conciously.
Here lies the obfuscation. Are they "hiding behind children" or is it our tactic to seek them out in their residences where children are bound to be present? The latter I think. If I come for you in your home and then kill your family trying to get to you, I am not morally superior in any way. Quite the opposite in fact.
Their being killed, in the second case, is indeed accidental, since it was not intended.
There are no accidents. That is where you varnish the truth. There are tactics and weapons and opportunities and choices. If the first casualty of war is innocence, the truth is the second.
You get it exactly right when you mention 9-11 though. I'm sure they felt morally justified then just as we do now and just as Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev felt justified when they attacked Boston. You will recall that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev bluntly stated that their actions were retaliation for our attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the casualties were, in his exact words, "collateral damage". Was he morally superior too then? Obviously not. I also want to point out that I predicted within hours of the attack that the Boston attack was retaliation for our drone strike policies right here at FR, well before Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wrote his bloody little message in that boat confirming it. when the unvarnished truth is your ally, you are able to see and describe events a little more clearly and that is why I yet argue this point (or any point really).
On one end of the scale you have, IMO, a Boston bomber who intentionally and with malice aforethought sets his bomb down in a crowd of civilians, right behind a six year old boy.
On the other end you have an American drone operator who launches a missile strike at a car he knows is carrying a person who encourage the Boston bomber to strike. Unbeknownst to him, there is also a six year old boy in the car.
The BB is intentionally killing children. That’s what he sets out to do. The drone operator is intentionally killing adult enemies of Americans, and unintentionally kills a child.
There is obviously a complete spectrum of moral responsibility in between, but to my mind there is most definitely a difference between the moral guilt of these two men.
Few missions can be launched without some risk of collateral damage, which means be definition few missions will be launched OR we determine some level of collateral damage is “acceptable.”
I think we can agree that using a nuke on Baghdad to take out Saddam would have been “unacceptable.” Where to draw the line between that and giving up (which is what you would have to do if all CD is unacceptable) is the moral dilemma.
Just thought of a better analogy, I think.
In WWII the Nazis intentionally killed millions of children in their camps and elsewhere.
Meanwhile the Allies killed hundreds of thousands, possibly a million or more, in bombing attacks on nuclear and conventional German and Japanese cities and otherwise. Now I happen to think many of these attacks were not fully justified morally, but I hope you will agree there is a difference in the degree of moral culpability.