Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Assassination as statecraft

I've long been uncomfortable with the notion of sending in commandos with the mission of killing someone the current administration doesn't like. Why this should be so, I'm not entirely sure: I don't have the same queasiness when it comes to troops invading another country, or even of sending a Predator drone to blow the same evil-doer into oblivion. Now here come two British academics who ponder the larger question of Targeted Killings. Among their points:

The United States is intensifying its targeted strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan to a level causing astonishment even among Israeli security specialists. American forces now carry out more targeted killings than any state in the world.
The writers object to the use of the word "assassination," since it's a moral judgment. They go further, to argue that international law explicitly condones such killings:
Article 51 of the UN Charter permits states to defend themselves against actions attributable to other states, but also to sub-state and nonstate entities threatening their national security. That is, targeted killings undertaken in self-defense—to include preemptive attacks—do not breach international law.
It goes on. None of this may interest those who argue, simply, "whatever it takes!" But it does interest me. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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