Theoretically, then, speaking in terms of moral philosophy, the rightness or wrongness of our actions might appropriately be judged by the results they produce. There is a branch of moral philosophy, in fact, that is focused on exactly that proposition, and that goes by the name of "consequentialism." We make use of this understanding of morality when we say that the "ends justify the means."
What "ends," exactly, do we think justify the use of torture in our name?
What "ends" justify the premeditated murder of persons that the United States government has decided, without the benefit of any trial, are a danger to our society?
There is no doubt, as CBS News reports, that this "ends justify the means" approach to foreign policy is now the official modus operandi of the government that represents us:
These killings, in which the United States targets drone strikes at specific individuals, are deeply controversial: innocent civilians have allegedly died and the legality of the killings is unclear. Just as Abu Ghraib became the face of U.S. interrogation policy in Iraq, so the specter of hundreds of dead civilians threatens U.S. counter-terrorism efforts in Pakistan.
Yet there has been no real domestic public debate or meaningful congressional oversight over targeted killings, even though their strategic and policy consequences are hotly contested. CIA Director Leon Panetta, for example, gave a speech in May 2009 in which he said that "[Drone] operations have been very effective because they have been very precise in terms of the targeting and it involved a minimum of collateral damage."