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Targeted KillingsLaw and Morality in an Asymmetrical World$
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Claire Finkelstein, Jens David Ohlin, and Andrew Altman

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199646470

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199646470.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 September 2021



Targeted Killings

Claire Finkelstein

Oxford University Press

The policy of the Bush Administration with regard to terror suspects focused on detention and interrogation: detention as a temporary immobilization of potential terrorists, and interrogation to gather information needed to fight the war on terror. No one was surprised, then, when the new Obama Administration wanted to distance itself from the tactics of the former Bush Administration. It sought ways of addressing the threat of terrorism that avoided the brutality in interrogations, indefinite detentions, and the moral and legal thicket of conducting legal proceedings against terror suspects, whose situations were dramatically different from ordinary criminal defendants. It is perhaps no accident, then, that targeted killing emerged as the central strategy for fighting the war on terror. This chapter begins by arguing that the justification that applies to the practice of killing in war, in its traditional form, cannot properly be extended to the practice of targeting previously identified individuals in a way that abstracts from the proximity of their connection to active hostilities. The practice of targeted killing, as currently fashioned, is for this reason not easily justifiable under the traditional laws of war. It suggests however, that there are yet other rationales for killing those who pose a danger to national security that do not rely on either traditional just war theory or on the domestic law of personal justifications. The chapter advances an argument for an expansive approach to prevention called ‘preemptive killing’. Preemption, unlike prevention, extends the preventive privilege to a number of cases in which the anticipated harm is non-imminent.

Keywords:   war on terror, President Obama, President Bush, targeted killing, justification, preemptive killing

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