The movie Eye in the sky is about an ethical dilemma known as the double effect. Being at war has changed the way we see danger and the need to avoid suffering has taken us to new technologies that keep us from harm. The fact that we are able to attack the enemy from afar guarantees the safety of our citizens but the agression is unknown, I mean, impersonal.
Lieutenant General Frank Benson: Well, this changes things.
Steve Watts: What’s happening?
Sergeant Mushtaq Saddiq: We see a suicide vest and a whole bunch of explosives.
Brian Woodale: What’s the plan, General?
Lieutenant General Frank Benson: We have the ability to strike a target with considerable accuracy.
Angela Northman: I came here to witness a capture, not a targeted assassination.
Lieutenant General Frank Benson: Dozens of lives are at stake if these men leave.
The fact that a group of terrorists with families and friends gather to plan a bombing that will kill a certain number of people seems illogical to us, but then again, safe from harm. Who would bomb a village full of inocent people? To have a distance capacity to make justice doesn’t make us any heroes, but it keeps the solution clean for us.
Steve Watts: Ma’am?
Colonel Katherine Powell: You are cleared to engage, lieutenant.
Steve Watts: She stopped.
Colonel Katherine Powell: Lieutenant, we have this one opportunity. Let’s not lose it.
Steve Watts: Ma’am, um, she’s selling bread.
Carrie Gershon: Jesus
Colonel Katherine Powell: Those men are about to disperse. Engage now!
Steve Watts: Ma’am, I understand we have clearance. I have to fire if I see the HVI’s moving or when this girl’s out of the radius but I want to give her a chance to get out of the way.
Colonel Katherine Powell: Lieutenant, you have clearance! There is a lot more at stake than you see here in this image.
Steve Watts: Ma’am, I need you to run the collateral damage estimate again with this girl up front.
Colonel Katherine Powell: This situation has not changed, lieutenant. You are cleared to engage.
The two pilots of the remote missile face a double effect dilemma, to kill the terrorist by destroying the families around the hidding place. They state their position by not bombing, but their chief is keen on maintaining the big picture: the number of lives they will save by killing them on the spot. The main problem is that if you have all the bad guys gathered together in one place and you have the chance to stop them from doing any harm, will you blow up the place?
George Matherson: If they kill 80 people, we win the propaganda war. If we kill one child, they do.
What is a life worth? Terrorism has taken lives of innocent people to imposse their beliefs. The fact that we are trying to defend the innocent by killing them as means to an end seems to be the same ideology they have. Every life matters, there is no different value for them. The moral dilemma here is that if the action we take has a proportionate effect to be done? Is the action good? Is the first effect good?
Colonel Katherine Powell: Do we have a CDE yet?
Sergeant Mushtaq Saddiq: Yes. If we target this corner room here, where the explosives are, we would expect a 100% mortality rate in that room, an 80-90% rate within the rest of the house. The market should be safe but this area here, in the street, a 65-75% rate. That’s just the hellfire. If we factor in the explosives in the vests, we’re looking at more extensive damage, way out to this area here but I can’t accurately estimate that yield.
Colonel Katherine Powell: But we would be contained that payload in the vest within those walls, right? Far less damage than them going off in a popular shopping mall.
Sergeant Mushtaq Saddiq: Yes, of course
Colonel Katherine Powell: Thank you, obvious to anyone not trying to avoid making a decision.
If we see the problem you may think that the death of few people is worth it if you saving a large number of lives. That is the utilitarian way to make up for the actions, but the fact that lives are taken as means to an end is unjust to the victims. But if we see the laws and act according to them, then justice must be applied but which law? What law do we follow if there are many other laws implied? The things shown by technology demonstrate the delicate situation, but what to do?
Lieutenant General Frank Benson: What’s the plan, Katherine?
Colonel Katherine Powell: We need to put a hellfire through that roof right now.
Lieutenant General Frank Benson: I told you, they came to witness a capture not a kill. Give me a capture option.
Colonel Katherine Powell: We no longer have a capture option. Any action on the ground would lead to an armed confrontation which we will not be able to contain.
Lieutenant General Frank Benson: They’re watching. Even with the vests, we need their approval for a strike.
Colonel Katherine Powell: Just tell them we’ve got Danford in our sights. I mean that alone would justify using a hellfire. The vests are just a bonus.
Lieutenant General Frank Benson: Danford’s a British citizen. They want her alive. Colonel Katherine Powell: They cannot have her alive. Frank, I’ve tracked her for six years. This is the closest I’ve ever got. So, we need to expand our rules of engagement right now to protect the civilian population. A hellfire through that roof is our most-effective option.
Lieutenant General Frank Benson: We have to know that we’re legally in the clear.
The intention is to catch and take the terrorists, but the guaranteed option is to kill them. But the collateral damage of the attack combined with the bombs stored in the house are a terrible scenerio to act upon. The end is to finish terrorism, the circumstances changed from capturing to killing.
Steve Watts: Weapon is armed. What’s that?
George Matherson: Given the new circumstances, I think we should abort.
Jillian Goldman: You have number four and five on the president’s kill list in your sights. You are putting the whole mission at risk because of one collateral damage issue.
Apparently the mission changes and the risk is growing, there are international people implied in the operation. So when the laws, the utility and the principles are against each other, what is to be done? The only way is to have a clear sense of what is good or bad.