“Drone strikes are an innovation in anticipatory self-defense, requiring careful oversight and a high threshold for action. They are also a technology that allows the most discriminate application of force in the history of warfare. That the use of drones protects U.S. troops from risk is a virtue. And the targeting of American citizens who are fighting for the enemy is neither new nor forbidden by the laws of war. At least eight American volunteers for the Waffen SS were killed during World War II. Should their U.S. citizenship have earned them membership in a special, protected category of combatant?
“This, of course, is the essence of the matter. If America is in an ongoing war against al-Qaeda and associated groups, then the rules of war apply, Yemen and the Afghanistan/Pakistan border are battlefields, and al-Qaeda operatives are lawful targets. This is the position taken by both the Bush and Obama administrations, consistent with America’s inherent right of self-defense and the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.
“Labeling Obama as ‘judge, jury and executioner’ is his critics’ prerogative. But defending the country is not their responsibility. It is easy for those without executive authority to dismiss risks that are prospective. After a terrorist attack on America, the critics would likely be silent, hoping that no one recalled their complacency.” Emphasis added.
Michael Gerson, “Obama’s drone policy, rooted in self-defense,” WaPo