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  • 26 Dec 2020 GS Paper 4 Case Studies

    In a given scenario, a military team locates a terrorist cell preparing an attack expected to kill hundreds. They command a drone that can drop a bomb on the terrorists, preventing their attack. As the team readies the bomb, their cameras spy a little girl selling bread within the blast radius. Should they go through with their mission – killing the girl in order to prevent the deaths of many others?

    (a) Examine the options available to the military team, along with their pros and cons.

    (b) In this scenario, as the head of the military team, what course of action would you adopt? (250 words)

    • Introduce the case with the various aspects involved in it.
    • Identify the stakeholders.
    • Mention the options available to the military team.
    • Choose the course of action to be chosen by you if you were the head of the military team.


    • The given case highlights a moral dilemma before a military team operating a drone that would drop a bomb to kill a terrorist cell, but with collateral damage of killing a little girl selling bread. The dilemma is between the:
    • Utilitarian perspective of providing “ Greatest good to the greatest number of people” and thus choosing to drop the bomb to save hundreds of lives over the cost of the life of one little innocent girl.
    • Deontological perspective of not launching the bomb that would kill the innocent Girl because “ it is simply immoral to kill” even if the killing is done for good consequence of saving hundreds of lives.


    • Terrorist cell preparing for an attack
    • Little Girl within the blast radius
    • Military Team which is operating the drone.
    • Hundreds of people whose lives are under threat.
    • Nation/Society

    a) Available options to the military team are:

    Going ahead with the mission and drop the Bomb:

    • Pros- Save hundreds of people by killing terrorists and stopping them to launch any attack. This will fulfill their military duty of saving the nation from any terrorist attack. This will also bring appreciation to the military team from the community as well as from their organisation that would possibly bring them some rewards and promotions.
    • Cons- This will kill an innocent little Girl as a collateral damage. It may remain a lifelong guilt for the team members who could not justify their inner conscience of killing the girl.

    Abort the mission

    • Pros: It will save the innocent little girl.
    • Cons: It will leave the terrorist cell who have the potential to kill hundreds of lives by launching attacks. Along with this, the military team may be levelled with the tag of failure and in every terrorist attack by these terrorists in the future, if any, will fill them with huge regret.

    b) As the head of the military team, I would have a moral dilemma between the Positive duty of potentially saving hundreds of lives by ordering to drop the bomb and the negative duty of killing an innocent little girl. My possible actions would be:

    • I would prefer to hold the mission on standby until the girl is out of the blast radius since my conscience would not allow me to order to kill any innocent life. This decision may have disastrous consequences for the nation of potentially putting hundreds of lives at risk by letting go of a terrorist cell. It would also bring an enquiry from my team to explain our actions.
    • I would make every attempt to first move the girl out of the blast radius, if possible, as quick as possible and then drop the bomb. For this, if possible, I would contact the ground based local intelligence or police authority to detain the girl quickly and safely move her out of the blast radius. Or create any other distractions around the girl’s location to drive her out of blast radius.
    • If it is not possible by any means to move the girl out of the blast radius, I still would not order the dropping of the bomb since there still would be a chance to kill those terrorists in the future, but if the girl is killed, she could not be brought back. Further, any attack launched by those terrorists could be effectively neutralised by proper strategies to save those hundreds of lives. Thus, it still may be a win-win situation.
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