In times of war, the law is not silent. War is not a moral wilderness.
At the Second Lateran Council in 1139, the use of the crossbow was banned among European knights. Throughout history, there have been codes that even the hell of war could not override.
I own up to being conflicted about the use of drone strikes.
Those 19 young Arabs who struck the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, shredded the old notions and rules of war, erased the line between combatants and noncombatants, brought soot and ruin onto American soil.
Our country had to be made ready for this new kind of war.
We waged big military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the terrorists waged a twilight war of their own, bereft of scruples and limits.
There would be no treaty of surrender we could enforce, no capital city to be subdued. Chased from Afghanistan, they turned up in Yemen and Somalia.
They were soldiers of the catacombs, and they thrived in ungoverned spaces.
Targeted killing was the response of a great military power to the frustrations of this "asymmetrical" war.
We didn't know that larger world of Islam from which this war arose. We were sandbagged by regimes and rulers that feigned friendship with us as they winked at the terror that came our way.
What was one to make of the New Mexico-born radical imam Anwar al-Awlaki inciting his devotees to a holy war - all in good Americanese? He wore no uniform, slipped into the badlands of his ancestral Yemen, and mastered the new means of communication.
In the strict legalism of things he was an American citizen, but he bore this country a deadly animus.
No tears need be shed for him. The strike that killed him, in Yemen in September 2011, was just retribution. Presidential spokesman Jay Carney's defense of the drone strikes as legal, ethical and wise can stand in the case of Awlaki.
The executive had been granted broad powers under the Authorization for Use of Military Force in the aftermath of Sept. 11, and two presidents were given the leeway to prosecute this war on terrorism.
In truth, the public didn't want to look too closely into the doings of our government. We left it to our intelligence agencies and our military to keep us safe.
But there came a time - after the doings of the night shift at Abu Ghraib became public - when the writ granted our officials was withdrawn. Liberals declared an all-out ideological war against the administration of George W. Bush.
The horror, the horror: The renditions and the enhanced interrogation techniques and, yes, the 50 or so drone strikes used during the Bush years became, to the liberals, a matter of national shame.
A rising politician in the Democratic Party, a former teacher of constitutional law at the University of Chicago at that, rode this sense of outrage to the pinnacle of political power. He posed as a moralist.