But — contrary to the reflexive claims of the left — UAVs mark a significant advance in sparing the innocent: morally ambiguous still, but less so than an artillery shell or a cruise missile.

Never before has a state been able to target its deadly enemies with such precision. And contrary to one of the countless myths of the left, we’re not trigger-happy. Under rules adopted in the Bush years and broadly retained now, targets must be screened and approved at multiple levels in a process so rigorous that, frequently, our enemies escape. It’s hard to see how we could fight more ethically.

Instead of bombing a city or invading yet another country where terrorists have found refuge, pinpoint strikes kill terrorist chieftains and their immediate adherents (or, at worst, their willing hosts) while sparing the family next door. But our critics, foreign and domestic, hold us to an impossible standard, questioning whether we have the right to kill enemies proud of their resolve to murder us. Those same critics revel in the rare drone strikes that go awry as evidence of our alleged savagery.