Any innocent death is an irreversible tragedy. But it is also the lowest civilian casualty-rate currently imaginable. If the president’s critics from the left doubt this perhaps they could come up with other options.
Do any of them actually have a way of stopping these terrorists that minimizes casualties even further? Would putting hundreds of thousands of American boots on the ground in Pakistan or Yemen do the job more efficiently? If the jihadists do as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan, they’d counter the American soldiers on roads, fields and cities riddled with mines, killing untold numbers of civilians in the process.
What about the local armies? Assuming you could even rally a reliable troop together, you don’t have to recall the Red Mosque siege to realize that sending in the Pakistani army to deal with jihadist cells would be inviting a blunderbuss to commit a massacre. The Yemeni army—which repeatedly failed to apprehend al-Awlaki—is also not a precision tool of war.
Of course everybody wishes that the problem didn’t exist. President Obama perhaps more than most. But if you accept—as all serious people in the end must—that there are terrorists in the world who wish to harm us, then President Obama should be congratulated. He has landed on the most efficient means known to kill Western enemies while harming as few potential friends as possible.