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  • Targeted Killing: When pragmatism and international law collide

    "Killing a man is murder unless you do it to the sound of trumpets." ~ Voltaire

    The sources, methods, goals and tactics of identifying legitimate targets for covert action, are matters typically hidden from public scrutiny, yet clearly worthy of public attention and philosophical debate. The following of unequivocal ethical criteria when identifying targets is necessary to minimize blowback when conducting Targeted Killing Operations. Comparable to torture and rendition, the debate that encompasses these operations have passionate supporters on both sides of the issue. In spite of the genuine controversy surrounding this subject, a carefully circumscribed policy of targeted killing can be a legal and effective tool in a counter-terror campaign.

    It is necessary to provide a coherent and acceptable definition of both assassination and targeted killing in order to form a common frame of reference when debating the pertinent moral and legal arguments for and against targeted killing. First, we must differentiate the current US policy of targeted killing from the common understanding of “assassination.” In asymmetric warfare determining combatant vs. non-combatant status is a critical task to any operation. Discerning between these two designations may initially seem effortless, however, in an asymmetric environment these distinctions only come in shades of grey. Throughout the paper, we will examine the arguments for and against targeted killing. Subsequently, I propose policy guidelines to that must be considered in order to minimize blowback when conducting Targeted Killing Operations.

    Establishing a difference between assassination and targeted killing is paramount in developing ethical criteria for Targeted Killing Operations. International Law does not address the term assassination. The word assassination does not appear in the United Nations Charter, Hague or Geneva Conventions, or the Statute of the International Criminal Court. However, Executive Order 12333 is the most recent in a series of three executive orders to have included U.S. Presidential bans on assassination. The purpose of EO 12333 was to preempt more restrictive congressional legislation, preclude individual agents or agencies from taking unilateral actions against selected foreign officials, and to unequivocally affirm that the United Sates does not condone assassination as an instrument of nation policy. “Defining what is not assassination is as important as defining what is assassination.” Assassination is considered illegal regardless of the circumstances. The difference between a targeted killing and a wartime assassination is really a question of method. A wartime assassination disregards jus in bello by utilizing treacherous and perfidious techniques to eliminate the target where a targeted killing does not.

    Many scholars categorize assassination as a subset of murder8 where the target is chosen based on his identity, prominence, public position and the killing motivated to achieve some political objective. This definition lays out three required elements to qualify as an assassination: (1) murder, (2) a specific individual, (3) for political purposes. Therefore, in order for an assassination to take place there must be a politically motivated murder of a specific individual in peacetime.

    The widely accepted definition of targeted killing is “the intentional slaying of a specific individual or group of individuals undertaken with explicit government approval.” This definition however does not establish a legal justification. To go one step further we must distinguish between a legal and illegal government approved slaying in the context of a targeted killing. Two models have been presented to deal with international terrorism, the law enforcement model, as reflected in standards of international human rights law and the armed conflict model, as understood by the international humanitarian law. The law enforcement model inherently assumes terrorist are non-combatants therefore, limiting actions to apprehension making targeted killing illegal. This illegal slaying, (which does not fully meet the above criteria of assassination as it lacks political aspirations) should be considered an extra-judicial execution. The armed conflict model identifies targets as combatants in order to justify lethal action. Hence, the term targeted killing would be appropriate when using the armed conflict model to identify combatants. For this paper, targeted killing will be used to define a legal lethal action as long as it satisfies the requirement of armed conflict and combatant classification.

    The crux of the debate whether targeted killing is legal and subsequently morally just is based on the classification of the subjects being targeted for killing. In conventional war, the distinction between combatants and non-combatants turns on the simple notion of bearing arms, wearing uniforms, belonging to a military organization, and abiding by the rules of war. These conditions; found in Article 4 of the Geneva Convention (1949) are what is used to define a combatant. In 1977 Protocol I to the Geneva Convention made allowances for guerrilla organizations to shed their uniforms when they fight an army of occupation.

    Members of the Al Qaeda organization do not fit the definition of resistance fighter or volunteer militia as set forth in Article 4 of the Geneva Convention. According to Patricia Zengel, Military Law Review, they do not wear uniforms, are not led by a commander that takes responsibility for their actions, and do not follow the laws and customs of war; three of the four requirements needed to be considered a lawful combatant. However, it seems that international terrorists should be considered some sort of combatant. They have not limited themselves to solely seek out and destroy only civilian targets. “It appears then”, as Gross states, “that international terrorists warrant some status that combines criminality with combatancy. This is the proper understanding of unlawful combatant.” Differentiating these key terms allows us to clearly examine the legality and pragmatic positions for targeted killing.

    Arguments for and against Targeted Killing:
    Mary Ellen O‟Connell, of the School of Law at Notre Dame, is a key proponent of the law enforcement model. “Terrorist attacks are criminal acts, not an armed attack. They have all the hallmarks of crime; they are Sporadic and are rarely the responsibility of the state where the perpetrators are located.” This statement is based on Article 2 (4) of the UN charter, stating the premise that terrorist organizations are criminal in origin and they should not be considered combatants. Unfortunately, there is no law enforcement agency today capable of dealing with an international terrorist organization like al-Qaeda. Therefore, the only model that has any chance of success is the armed conflict model. By definition then, using this model infers active members of al-Qaeda to be combatants and may be lawfully targeted at will.

    What is the alternative to the armed conflict model when suspected terrorists are in a foreign country and that nation is either unwilling or incapable of capturing these suspected terrorists? In “Targeted Killing” Daniel Statman claims that the United States is entitled to classify operations against al-Qaeda as war.

    with the loosening of various moral prohibitions implied by such definition, rather than a police-enforcement action aimed at bringing a group of criminals to justice based upon two specific criteria: (a) the gravity of the threat posed by al-Qaeda and (b) the impracticality of coping with this threat by conventional law enforcing institutions and methods.

    It is best to understand targeted killing as an adaption of the guerilla war convention that permits soldiers to identify and subsequently kill one another in the absence of uniforms. Can a government just use lists of names to identify their enemy? In this case, names on a list serve the same function as a uniform: they determine affiliation. The obvious problem is who decides whose name is on the list? This is where transparent and ethically sound criteria must be followed to ensure mistakes are minimalized.

    In the past, states attempted to uphold the principle that states deal only with other states. To do otherwise would confer power and legitimacy to non-state actors and organizations such as al-Qaeda. The precedence set on September 11th, by these international terrorist demonstrate that the U.S. can no longer treat terrorism as a legal matter to „depoliticize‟ and „delegitimize‟ it by defining it as criminal activity instead of warfare due to the magnitude of destructive capabilities these terrorist organizations have evinced in recent history.

    Through the early 1990s the U.S. attempted to apply the law enforcement model against terrorists, bringing to trial those accused of perpetrating the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. This model at best seems to only get the „foot soldiers‟ not the leaders of these international terrorist organizations. Since the adoption of the armed conflict model as doctrine the U.S. is under no obligation to attempt to arrest an individual before targeting him or her. Under this model, the combatant status remains in effect for the duration of the armed conflict unless the individual takes some action to renounce this status. However, considering the importance of intelligence it does not make sense to kill the target when capture and interrogation would produce significant benefits. This opportunity of intelligence demands support of a policy guideline to ensure targeted killing is used as a method of last resort.

    Another argument against targeted killing is to demonstrate a lack of efficacy. Targeted Killing Operations must be supported by a robust intelligence apparatus. Copious amounts of reliable intelligence are necessary to sustain an effective targeted killing program. However, any failure in this process has wide spread blowback potential. The opposition to targeted killings increases dramatically when targeting errors occur and innocent non-combatants are killed. According to the opposition, targeted killing provokes a fierce reaction against both collaborators and those who recruit them and, at the same time, rend the moral and social fabric of the community by introducing an element of distrust among the population.

    Every time a wanted individual was captured, wounded, or killed, the public immediately suspected the work of an informer. It was the beginning of a vicious cycle in which they wanted individuals were hunted by the security forces, while the suspected collaborators were hunted by the wanted, who held them responsible for the death or capture of their comrades.

    Targeted killing may deplete the ranks but, it also counter intuitively motivates previously non-ideological individuals to join the ranks based on personal grievances. Therefore, the decision to conduct a targeted killing operation must discriminate targets and weigh the benefit of removing the threat with the risk of blowback from the community you are trying to protect. This type of consideration must be included when developing procedures to guide the proper implementation of a U.S. policy of targeted killing. The answer is not to stop
    targeted killings when they are justified, but to minimize mistakes with more timely and reliable intelligence and a careful process that reviews and approves all targeting missions.

    The argument between sovereignty vs. the right to self-defense often comes up when considering the legality of targeted killing. A state‟s inherent right to self-defense is established by Article 51 of the U.N. Charter which reads: "Nothing in present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self – defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self – defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security."

    Unfortunately, much debate and controversy surround the ambiguity in what a legitimate self – defense response entails. The most accepted interpretation of this doctrine is based upon the necessity and proportionality test established in customary international law by the Caroline Doctrine. Proponents claim that under this doctrine states possess a right of anticipatory self – defense and that no armed attack need occur before a state may resort to force to counter a threat. If a nation is able to justify a targeted killing under Article 51 then it is legal in both international and domestic law. Emmanuel Gross provides four factors that are especially appropriate in determining the plausibility of a perceived threat:

    1. Past Practices: Past practices of the terrorist organization must be reviewed to determine the extent to which a possible attack is consistent with those practices.
    2. Motives: Does the group have particular goals? If so, then the extent to which those goals have or have not been fulfilled will bear on the likelihood of future attacks.
    3. Current Context: Have contemporary events cause tensions between the state and the terrorist to become exacerbated or relaxed? Similarly, what is the current state of relations between the target state and those sponsoring the terrorist group? Further, to what extent is the target state currently vulnerable from either a security or political perspective?
    4. Preparatory Actions: Even though no intelligence is available indicating a planned attack, are activities underway that suggest that an operation is being planned?...The more consistent the particular activities that the group conducts are with prior operations, the more likely a response is to be deemed necessary.

    These factors can assist a government in assessing conditions and identifying whether targeted killing is justified under the protection of Article 51 of the UN Charter.

    Weighing the risk of collateral damage vs. the benefit of removing a high value target must take into consideration proportionality and necessity. To present a realistic scenario, consider that a suspected “High Value” terrorist is discovered through intelligence information to be operating out of a house in a remote village outside of a northern Pakistani village. Three courses of action present themselves, (1) rely on the Pakistan government to resort to their only means of handling the situation, (2) use a hellfire missile mounted on a UAV platform to take out the target, (3) Do nothing, and let the known terrorist go free until the remote possibility of capture presents itself. Even though Michael Gross is not a supporter of targeted killing he acknowledges that, “assassination has the singular virtue of substantially reducing collateral damage and harm to noncombatants while eliminating grave, military threats.”

    The general consensus among early international law theorists and scholars was that an intentional attack to kill an enemy leader was typically permissible, provided the attack did not employ treacherous or perfidious means. Limitations designed to ensure legality and transparency must be established in order to ensure Targeted Killing Operations are not perceived as perfidious by the world community. Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur for the United Nations, states in his report to the UN:

    Transparency and accountability in the context of armed conflict or other situations that raise security concerns may not be easy. States may have tactical or security reasons not to disclose criteria for selecting specific targets (e.g. public release of intelligence source information could cause harm to the source). But, without disclosure of the legal rationale as well as the bases for the selection of specific targets (consistent with genuine security needs), States are operating in an accountability vacuum. It is not possible for the international community to verify the legality of a killing, to confirm the authenticity or otherwise of intelligence relied upon, or to ensure that unlawful targeted killings do not result in impunity. The fact that there is no one-size-fits-all formula for such disclosure does not absolve States of the need to adopt explicit policies.

    The U.S. policy on targeted killing remains classified. However, publishing transparent guidelines (focusing on limitations) would provide some legal reassurance not only to the international community but, to the U.S. government employees that have been charged to conduct these crucial missions. In the paper, “The role of targeted killing in the campaign against terror,” COL Peter Cullen states, “The U.S. policy on targeted killing remains extremely controversial. It is a high risk, high payoff component in the campaign against terror. When successful, it eliminates key adversaries, disrupts terrorist planning, and highlights U.S. military prowess. When unsuccessful, however, it undermines U.S. credibility and severely strains relations with other nations.”

    The following proposed guidelines for Targeted Killing Operations should be implemented before congressional legislation removes this effective component from the armamentarium available in dealing with international terrorist:

    1. High Value Targets only.
    2. No Political Leadership.
    3. No Operations on U.S. soil.
    4. No Operations against U.S. citizens.
    5. Authorization from host nation.
    6. Option of last resort.
    7. Limit CIA involvement.
    8. Consider proportionality.
    9. High Level Approval.
    10. Congressional Oversight.

    Although it has been established that all members of al-Qaeda are combatants and would be legitimate targets, as stated earlier, targeted killing should be considered a high risk, high payoff asset. Limiting operations to key targets that pose a substantial threat to the U.S. would ease political strains with the international community. Mixed signals are given when political leadership is targeted as well. Focus should remain on combatants who take a direct role in planning, financing, or executing terrorist activities.

    Domestic Law should never be violated and conducting operations on U.S. citizens or on U.S. soil would inevitably contravene Federal Law. Also, in adherence to Article 2(4) of the UN charter all attempts should also be made to seek authorization from the state where the targeted individuals are located. In cases where combat operations are being conducted (e.g. Iraq or Afghanistan) then authorization with that government would not be possible or necessary.

    When the host country has a reliable and capable law enforcement element then all attempts to capture and interrogate the target should be made. Targeted killing should only occur when circumstances of capture are not a viable option or present an unreasonable risk to U.S. personnel. The operation to apprehend Somali warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid in Mogadishu in 1993 illustrates some of the potential dangers inherent with the application of the law enforcement model within rogue states. Attempts to arrest a target in hostile territory could lead to an egregious level of collateral damage that may have been averted using targeted killing.

    The CIA plays a very important role in creating and maintaining the short list of individuals for targeted killing operations. The accuracy of this list is the key to success. However, CIA personnel are considered non-combatants on the battlefield and therefore the operations themselves should be executed only by military personnel. Again, proportionality must be a factor when conducting targeted killing. The ICRC states that, “the kind and degree of force which is permissible against persons not entitled to protection against direct attack must not exceed what is actually necessary to accomplish a legitimate military purpose in the prevailing circumstances.”

    Political considerations involving both impact and sensitivity demand that approval authority for these operations should only be given the highest levels of government. The U.S. system used today for Presidential findings for covert action would be ideal. The Presidential finding would be that the operation is a matter of necessity – the target poses a serious threat to the U.S. and that arrest is not a viable option – would have to be based upon clear and convincing evidence utilizing the most current intelligence available.

    Congressional oversight of how individuals are put on the list is required to maintain the support of the public. Understandably, it would be difficult to notify the congressional leadership prior to a targeted killing operation, however effort should be made to inform them immediately thereafter at a minimum. The first, most obvious reason is the inherent secrecy of the information involved in targeted killing operations. In other areas, such as the environment or banking, the media plays a valuable role in helping Congress monitor the actions of the federal government on behalf of the public. In the largely classified world of intelligence, in all but a few exceptional cases, the media is effectively precluded from playing that supporting role, thus enhancing the importance of legislative oversight.

    The 2002 National Security Strategy expanded the doctrine of pre-emptive self- defense.

    "Given the goals of rogue states and terrorists, the United States can no longer rely solely on a reactive posture as we have in the past. The inability to deter a potential attacker, the immediacy of today‟s threats, and the magnitude of potential harm that could be caused by our adversaries, choice of weapons, do not permit that option. We cannot let our enemies strike first…"

    "We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today‟s adversaries. Rogue states and terrorist do not seek to attack us using conventional means…"

    "The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction – and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy‟s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively."

    This represented the most dynamic and controversial aspect of the National Security Strategy and what has since become known as the Bush Doctrine. This doctrine laid the foundation for the justification of targeted killing. In assessing the legality of these operations it is essential to determine whether or not an armed conflict exists between the U.S. and al-Qaeda. Regardless of the debate, since September 11th, the U.S. has clearly adopted the armed conflict model in its attempt to thwart this terrorist organization.

    In the pursuit of maintaining international legitimacy the U.S. must be more transparent in how it develops its policy regarding the specific targeting of suspected terrorist outside of the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. Success or failure depends on the accuracy of the intelligence provided to conduct these operations. For targeted killing operations to succeed resources to improve identifying and locating high value targets must be allocated.

    When targeted killing operations are supported by a comprehensive information operations strategy and executed using accurate intelligence, it becomes a decisive weapon against international terrorism. Defining these operations as extra-judicial killings or assassinations is done so out of ignorance of the actual intent of the program. Again transparency is the key to this argument and assurances need to be provided that the above mentioned guidelines are being followed. Cullen states, “the U.S. must aggressively explain the strong legal and moral bases for the policy and assure the world community that the tactic is invoked sparingly and only when no other reasonable alternatives are available to prevent the target from threatening the U.S. and innocent civilians…public confidence in its checks and balances to ensure proper targeting decisions must be attained.

    Author's Note:
    This research paper was submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Master of Diplomacy and Military Studies Degree at Hawaii Pacific University. The views expressed in this student academic research paper are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of Tactical Gamer.

    Editor's Note:
    McGann's highly annotated original work and be found at the following link.

    Comments 129 Comments
    1. sordavie's Avatar
      sordavie -
      Quote Originally Posted by McGann View Post
      Oh and on a side note on the "crux" sentence, actually I was stateing the crux of the debate is the status of the person you are targeting and killing. Combatant vs. Non-Combatant. That is the crux, not legal vs. moral.
      I wasn't suggesting it was the crux of the debate you're interested in discussing in the article. However, you do make the claim that whether something is moral or not is subsequent to whether it's legal or not. (Subsequent in what way? Conceptually subsequent? Temporally subsequent? Ontologically subsequent? Spatially subsequent? I assume you mean something like conceptually or ontologically, since the others don't even make any sense.) That's all that I was balking at. Very very few ethicists think that's a plausible view. As you note, that's not the crux of the debate you're interested in. So it would actually be perfectly fine for you to leave the 'and subsequently morally just' part of the sentence out without affecting the rest of your discussion. But since you stick it in there, perhaps as an aside, the claim is going to get evaluated by your readers.

      Indeed your whole discussion appears to revolve around how targeted killing should be treated in a context which we maintain the current legal framework, with some discussion of the historical way the current framework got to be. So considerations of whether we ought to change the legal framework or considerations about the moral status of targeted killings is not within the scope of your article, it seems. So you could just take out any statements about that latter stuff without affecting your main point. But again if you do make any statements about that stuff, it's going to be evaluated by your readers.

      Your PDF link tells me it's an invalid attachment or some such.
    1. Lien's Avatar
      Lien -
      An interesting read, well written and thought provoking. Good job.

      When i first read this paper yesterday, there were nine comments on this and when I looked at it again to write my comment there were 41 comments. Interesting I thought to myself...
      What is going on people!?
      Attacks left and right, quotes with little relevance to the discussion and blatant hijacking of the comments section.

      I came here to write my response, and until I saw E-Males avatar I actually thought he had a point in his first comment only to get shot down by McGann.

      McGann take pride in what you have written and don't mind the tone of E-Males initial comment.
      E-Male please change your offensive avatar, you have made your point and this is not the optimal place to make it.

      As a foreigner I understand that I cannot quite understand how it is to be an American in this day and age. I will however always remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news about the WTC attack. About fifteen minutes after one of the major TV-channels here in Sweden cut their regular programming and instead aired live coverage from CNN all day, must have watched it in horror for about four hours straight.

      I can imagine how deep this wound is and that it will take a long time for it to heal.

      That being said, the killing OBL on foreign land without notifying that country is to me not legal nor is it moral. I understand why and to what end it was done, but I believe that it will hurt the United States already less than stellar reputation in the world.
      We have a saying here in Sweden "missförstå mig rätt" meaning roughly misunderstand me right, that is, don't judge what I say until I have finished saying it. Here is why I am saying that.

      9/11 was a horrific tradgedy and an attack not only directed at the US, it sent a clear message to the whole of the western world than none of us are safe. It was an attack on democracy itself. Going after Al-qaeda was important and just. Now, the consequences of this hunt for terrorists can be felt globally. There was even a person not much oplder than me from my hometown (125 000 inhabitants) that was imprisoned on Guantanmo bay for four years before he was released, he was not allowed to talk to any representatives from Sweden until about two years of imprisonment. This is a big deal, to just deny a country that takes pride in its judicial system promoting the rights of all swedish citizens. That is not legal. I understand why and to what end but still.

      The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has claimed inumerable civillian casualties compared to enemy combatants or US soldiers. I fail to see either legality or moral justice there. I understand that there are wars in the world but I will never understand them. But this is why I say that I cannot understand how it is to be an American in this day ang age. Had something similiar happened here in Sweden, or that there was an impending invasion I would be one of the first to sign up for military duty.

      I do believe that OBL will become a martyr and a symbol of rebellion or "sticking it to the man" with lack of a better description on my part. I do not believe that that symbol will become a pop-icon, that to me is just not possible. I think it will be a reminder that the US does what it want and if someone disagrees, tough luck (OBL and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq).

      Swedes in general respect and romanticize the US, but in recent years there are more and more voices are being heard saying that the US is not that disimilar to the very terrorists they hunt. Relations with muslims have taken a beating, and the credibility of and the trust for the US has been declining steadily. Many of these opinions are ill informed but they are there none the less. A better way of saying it is that the US is seen as a bully.

      What is done is done, and as to the effectiveness of the targeted killing of OBL I can only say that it was a success. I will not celebrate it since to me it is just another life lost among the hundreds of thousands in this terrible conflict.

      I want to say that I am not critizing specific people or the US army, I'd like to think that I respect the rights and life of all people regardless nationality and belief, besides who am I to judge? This is Tactical Gamer, a site where there are people active in the army and I respect that.

      McGann, I hope I did not derail this thread any further and I could only hope to be able to write as well as you have done. My comment may not bring anything relevant to the table, but you posting this made me write this comment.


    1. E-Male's Avatar
      E-Male -
      What most strikes me about the discussion of targeted killings is the failure to contextualize it within the current actions of the US.

      The orthodox argument justifying not merely the use of targeted killings but the dramatic increase of this method of state-sanctioned violence begins and ends with the assumption that the wars in Iraq were morally and legally justified, as well as the basic neocon premise that the future benefits outweigh the current costs in dollars and lives.

      My point is that the US, under the Bush Administration, showed itself incapable of waging a just war and, in all probability, will be incapable of justly managing policies of targeted killings.

      Consider the following:

      "this war was itself a product of a particular set of ideas and a worldview based on a self-selected morality. To understand the whole story of the American adventure into Iraq it is essential to remember that it was initiated by a particular group of politicians and Washington intellectuals . . . their common belief in the righteousness and power of the United States ... [this] power of ideas when incestuously wedded to conviction and persistence can create its own internally accepted morality about war and high policy, divorced from historically accepted standards of moral behavior and from pragmatic reality." -- Jerry Pubantz

      The combination of American exceptionalism with the lack of accountability that has characterized the centralization of power within the White House, and the domination of the neoconservative narrative over policy makers and public opinion, suggests that the "current legal framework" is an insufficient measure of targeted killings.

      The story of policy and law within the US (and most states) is the story of the failure of law and policy. Arguing over the proper framework for just killings is like hiring a new janitor to clean up the legal and moral mess at Guantanamo Bay.

      The impact will be negligible.
    1. Delta*RandyShugart*'s Avatar
      Delta*RandyShugart* -
      Quote Originally Posted by E-Male View Post
      Yet is this not a tad naive? The system of checks and balances within the USA has all the appearances of having been eroded with the last two wars of America (or is it three now) providing a rather compelling demonstration of the Administration's willingness to either overlook the nation's laws or simply rewrite them as it sees fit.

      One cannot reasonably argue a position on foreign policy without taking a realist's stance towards the difference between policy and action, law and reality.
      I'd rethink what you just wrote there E-male, The US&A is not the only country fighting in Afghanistan.

      Actually a Canadian Sniper team holds the record ytd for the longest sniper kill. Over 1 - 1.5 miles.
    1. E-Male's Avatar
      E-Male -
      Quote Originally Posted by Delta*RandyShugart* View Post
      I'd rethink what you just wrote there E-male, The US&A is not the only country fighting in Afghanistan.

      Actually a Canadian Sniper team holds the record ytd for the longest sniper kill. Over 1 - 1.5 miles.

      The fact that my own country is complicit has no bearing on my argument above.

      The issue I raise has to do with the framework within which the targeted killings policy has recently been modified and accelerated (as under the Bush administration in particular, and continued within the current admin).
    1. Delta*RandyShugart*'s Avatar
      Delta*RandyShugart* -
      I watched the program "Killing Bin Laden" last night on the Discovery channel (it will be on the military channel tonight), and it was a good program. The commentary added was by former SEAL Team SIX and SEAL Team Members, the NSA Advisor, Fmr. CIA Directors and Consultants and workers from various Institutes and Think Tanks.

      (on a completely different side note I am glad that though the comanche project was cancelled they decided to use those parts and incorporate them within the Blackhawks which were used in this operation - thats my take on it)

      There was a standing kill order on Bin Laden however if there was a chance to take him a live SEAL Team Six was told to do so. However as we all know, Bin Laden wasn't going to be taking alive, personally I don't think Bin Laden wanted to be taken alive, and so he wasn't and he was shot in the chest and in the head (for all those idiots who feel that the government is hiding him because we can't see his picture it is bc when shot at that close of a range half of his head was shot off)

      Did Bin Laden get what has been coming to him? Yes.

      Now, I am not so sure I agree with the title "Targeted Killing", Standing Kill Order sounds a bit more professional, but that is just me.

      Assassination well we all know the premise of that word. It is usually done by 1 person.

      The Professionalism in which JTSOC, SOCOM, SEAL Teams, SEAL Boat Units, SoF, SFOD-D, Green Berets, Marine Recon, MEU, PJ's, Night Stalkers, Red Cell, Air Force Combat Controllers, Rangers and any other I forgot to mention operate in does not deserve in the slightest to have "Targeted Killing" associated with them. Because that is not how they operate.

      (The Fact that Disney has trademarked SEAL Team 6, is pathetic and should be what we should be focusing on, because it is just pathetic and tbh i didn't think it could be trademarked)

      SEAL Team SIX like many CIA SAD Operators work and complete Black Op missions. Black op missions are above International Military Law and parameters. So in theory this discussion, debate, argument really doesn't matter because these professionally trained operators don't have to adhere to International Military Law. This is the first time since Operation Red Wing that we all have been able to read and see what went on.

      On a personal note I am truly happy that Bin Laden has been killed. I don't enjoy the killing of people, i don't do it, i don't like seeing it done but there are certain cases where it needs to be done, and those who shoot at US, British, Dutch, Canadian, Australian, Swedish German and any others fighting alongside us in Afghanistan troops, at police officers, first responders, deserve to be shot and killed. Its cheaper and if it happens on US soil it doesn't burden me the taxpayer. - this is just my personal opinion.

      I witnessed the second plane going into the WTC. I still remember it as if it just happened.

      At the time I was a Junior in College at Wheaton College in Norton MA (ironically it is along the flight path from departures from Logan International Airport), I just moved into a house on campus (we didn't have frats, it used to be all girls), and were up late partying. I remember my friend Dave bursting into my room and saying
      "PK, a building is on fire in NYC", me being extremely hung over replied with some expletives and telling him how there are fires in major cities all the time, he then said how the reporters are talking about how plane crashed into a building or the Empire State Building which I then replied
      "A US Bomber did crash into the Empire State Building in the late 40's, now leave me the F alone I'm hungover".

      For some reason I then got up, walked downstairs, and as I walked into the lounge/common area I saw the second plane hit. Just like that, two other friends there said I stood there for a good 20 minutes in just boxers and a t shirt as other people came over and as the front door was open, it was surreal, especially since I was very good friends with Joe Shea who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and was a father of 4, his brother who I had only met twice also worked with him at the Cantor Fitzgerald office in the WTC.

      I remember taking off from school to go to Joe and his brother's funeral. After mass and the funeral there was something at the NYAC downtown.

      I got off at the wrong stop downtown and found myself at the WTC site, I have been unable to go back down there to this day because the smell of burnt flesh and death automatically comes to my senses. A friend of mine actually lives down there and I hold my breath after getting off the subway until I get into his apartment building. If I breathe in the air I smell those smells I encountered after 9/11. Even to this day I swear.

      So if you ask me, am I glad the mastermind behind the second attack on the WTC site was killed during a Special Forces Black Op mission, yes I am, I'm glad the last thing that went through his mind while gasping for air after being shot in the chest is a bullet that shot off half of his head.

      Do I feel that the Pakistani Military is Corrupt at all levels and that he was helped while being able to stay hidden in a city where the Pakistani equivalent of West Point is located? F Yes!

      I'm glad he's dead, and I'm for taking out as many of these POS as we can.
    1. Delta*RandyShugart*'s Avatar
      Delta*RandyShugart* -
      Quote Originally Posted by E-Male View Post

      The fact that my own country is complicit has no bearing on my argument above.

      The issue I raise has to do with the framework within which the targeted killings policy has recently been modified and accelerated (as under the Bush administration in particular, and continued within the current admin).
      ROE's are modified many times during conflicts and war.

      The only flaw I see with this is the fact that the US is a democracy, because the US is a democracy is why there is so much talk, why there is so much skepticism why there are certain people who can only feel satisfied if they see a picture. If this were a monarchy the government wouldn't have to elaborate.

      But because the US is a Democracy Americans have a feeling of entitlement which if you have seen any of the crappy shows on E! Entertainment Television shows just how far some Americans will go to make a $ and how far those who watch those shows will go to post on facebook or twitter or anywhere they can about whatever reality show they just watched or how they will agree with X celebrity and why Y celebrity is so right regarding V charity and Q Reason blah blah blah.
    1. E-Male's Avatar
      E-Male -
      Quote Originally Posted by Delta*RandyShugart* View Post
      ROE's are modified many times during conflicts and war.
      And that just brings us back to the heart of the matter -- the impact of an pre-existing doctrinal framework, dominated by a neoconservative agenda, on the democratic process and foreign policy.

      Debating ROEs in the midst of an otherwise illegal and immoral war is a rather odd affair.
    1. Delta*RandyShugart*'s Avatar
      Delta*RandyShugart* -
      So terrorist groups should be able to govern countries that they want to without having to deal with any repercussions?
    1. E-Male's Avatar
      E-Male -
      Quote Originally Posted by Delta*RandyShugart* View Post
      So terrorist groups should be able to govern countries that they want to without having to deal with any repercussions?
      This is not what I have said or implied.

      It is noteworthy that the logical extension of the current TK policy is any other nation showing up in the US to execute someone, including a American citizen.

      This is obviously something that the US state would find unacceptable.

      Thus at the very least, the policy would fail the test of Kant's categorical imperative (cue the resident philosopher . . .)
    1. HiTest's Avatar
      HiTest -
      E-Male are you saying the war against Al-Queda is an illegal and immoral one??
    1. Portable.Cougar's Avatar
      Portable.Cougar -
      Please, stop feeding the troll
    1. E-Male's Avatar
      E-Male -
      Quote Originally Posted by Portable.Cougar View Post
      Please, stop feeding the troll
      Is this really necessary?

      This is particularly disturbing when I have made quite a few substantive contributions to this thread and raised issues that have also been subsequently raised by others, yet your sole contribution is to hurl abuse at me.
    1. E-Male's Avatar
      E-Male -
      Quote Originally Posted by HiTest View Post
      E-Male are you saying the war against Al-Queda is an illegal and immoral one??
      If you mean the so called War on Terror, this is certainly the very subject of an an intense debate within the foreign policy journals. The very choice of war as opposed to other means is a key issue within this debate.

      So yes, the "war against" is subject to debate from all quarters.
    1. Steeler's Avatar
      Steeler -
      Does the moral and/or legal justification for "Targeted Killing" hold true under both military AND law enforcement doctrines? I read the OP as categorically denying that law enforcement was a viable framework under which to conduct these types of operations, but not everyone agrees with that.
    1. E-Male's Avatar
      E-Male -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steeler View Post
      Does the moral and/or legal justification for "Targeted Killing" hold true under both military AND law enforcement doctrines? I read the OP as categorically denying that law enforcement was a viable framework under which to conduct these types of operations, but not everyone agrees with that.
      This is a important point.

      A key component of the War of Terror's doctrine is that warfare, and not law enforcement or other means, is the necessary path to peace. The doctrine seeks to invalidate the law enforcement path as it is subject to more intense oversight and more rigorous standards than warfare conducted via anti-democratic claims of Oval Office privilege and overreach.
    1. sordavie's Avatar
      sordavie -
      Fortunately we're pretty sure that Kant's Categorical Imperative is not a good general test for what ought to be included in our moral code. There are two sorts of serious problems.

      First it's unclear which generality of codes one should test with it. This is important because considering different generalities in your codes result in different codes, which results in various codes allowing or disallowing different actions. For instance, while the policy of going in to a sovereign country to execute someone we want dead is not universalizable without contradiction for the US (if we consider the state as an actor), the more specific policy of the US going in to a soverign country to execute someone the US wants dead is universalizable without contradiction for the US. And of course the particular action of going in to Pakistan to kill someone we want dead fits either policy. Think if policies as governing action types and particular actions as action tokens. This is an instance of a more general problem about categorizing token actions in to types since tokens can fit many types for which there is no solution to make CI useful. That is, there is no privileged type we should assign for any token. Basically one can exploit this to justify or impugn any action what so ever - clearly no use as a method for determining what actions are or aren't morally justified.

      Second, CI, perhaps as a result of the first problem, appears to just get you plainly wrong results in many situations. But even those who sought to determine some level of generality to be uniformly tested got wrong results.

      A third potentially devastating problem for the view is that CI tells us to include contradictory codes. For instance it might tell us that we should adopt a policy of never intentionally put anyone in harms way without some great benefit. Yet, famously, Kant thought it also told us we should adopt a policy of never lying, including if some Nazis SS came to your house asking you where you're hiding some Jews. But in that case the two policies tell you to act in contradictory ways.

      The golden rule also suffers these two kinds of defects.

      It's why so few contemporary ethicists are Kantians. It's unclear how to fix the view to get around the objections while remaining in the spirit. Yet for some reason nonethicists still cite it as if it were rule. I guess they just haven't been updated.
    1. E-Male's Avatar
      E-Male -
      Quote Originally Posted by sordavie View Post
      Fortunately we're pretty sure that Kant's Categorical Imperative is not a good general test for what ought to be included in our moral code.
      I just tossed the CI out there as an example of an easy target. It has certainly been well critiqued over the past century or so and hardly fits with the postmodern condition of knowledge.

      We have no universally agreed upon general test for our moral codes (although some argue that the CI remains the dominant one) and are unlikely to arrive at any such agreement.

      Approaches to the issue of Targeted Killings are dominated by prescriptive attempts to massage the moral codes at the foundation of foreign policy doctrine into adequate shape for accommodating the increasing violence of a state that has placed civil society in a condition of permanent warfare.

      The most likely candidate for general test of the moral code behind foreign policy is . . . (?).
    1. sordavie's Avatar
      sordavie -
      Most contemporary philosophers are first of all not postmodernists or even postpostmodernists. The tradition of continental philosophy is diminishing, for good reason. The lack of rigor was too great. Those philosophers are more and more being relegated to departments like comparative literature and such.

      Most contemporary ethicists are likely to be some sort of sophisticated consequentialist, contractarian, or pluralist. The latter hold that there are no general tests for moral codes. We need to think about each proposed code on its own to determine whether it's right or wrong. Sophisticated consequentialists hold the general test (being vague since there are many variations) for morality is do what will bring the most good. Perhaps we apply this to moral codes or perhaps we apply this to particular actions. Though since foreign policy is a code, determining the foreign policy we morally ought to have, on the consequentialist view, is to determine which policy will bring the most good. Contractarians like John Rawls, perhaps the most influential political philosopher in the 20th century - something like 75% of all political philosophy dissertations in the last 50 years are on Rawls's theory of justice - considers what principles of justice rational actors would agree to when designing a society. Principles such as targeted killing of terrorists who are an important cog to their organization's success in an unconventional war might very well be agreed upon.
    1. Ytman's Avatar
      Ytman -
      I wasn’t trying to lead but I’ll attempt to rephrase it:
      What is the benefit of being a martyr over being able to actively create the outcome you want? To clarify I’m specifically talking of heads of movements and not a catalyst to a movement (a person whose death starts the movement). Even Joan of Arc’s death solved nothing.
      What is it about the killing of an agent of the enemy’s government/military during war that can be questioned? Killing with subterfuge or killing with a loud military action results in the same outcome and share many of the same actions/reasonings.
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