Saturday, October 05, 2013

The new face of assassination?

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Assassination has never changed the history of the world.”
- Benjamin Disraeli

On October second, the body of Mojtaba Ahmadi, commander of Iran's Cyber War Headquarters, was found in the woods outside of Tehran with two bullets in his heart - most likely delivered there by Mossad. He is the seventh Iranian scientist or military figure to be assassinated since 2007. Meanwhile the United States has killed close to 2,500 suspected terrorists and militants in drone strikes, in addition to roughly 800 civilians. My colleague has attempted to rationalize this tactic in the framework of just war theory. However, there is a flaw in this analysis - the drone campaign is not a war. It is a campaign of assassination, much like Israel's campaign against Iranian scientists.

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The use of drones is one of the many tactics employed in the "War on Terror," which is a war in name only. Even if one is to accept the premise that the War on Terror is in fact a war, that would in no way legitimize drone strikes as a valid tactic carte blanche. 

This is not to argue that drone strikes and other "targeted killings" (to use the governments parlance) are not a potentially effective tool against security threats to the United States. Some reports indicate that al-Qaeda and the Taliban have had some difficulty replacing leaders killed by drones and military operations. In combination with other tactics attacking the deep-seated causes of terrorism against the United States, they may still yet have a valuable role to play in American foreign policy.

The United States has an extensive history of using assassination to further its foreign policy goals, from Castro's poisoned cigars to the SEAL raid which killed Osama bin Laden. Drones are simply the latest and most efficient in the United States' killing arsenal. An argument can certainly be made for the continued use of drones, but not in the framework of being "just."


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