Just ten years ago the United States publically condemned Israel’s use of targeted killings against Palestinian terrorists. Martin S. Indyk, the former American ambassador to Israel, said in a statement on 5 July 2001, ''‘The United States government is very clearly on the record as against targeted assassinations…they are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.’'' However, after September 11th, the US makes frequent use of the controversial tactic in the global war on terrorism. In addition to the numerous moral and legal ambiguities, there are significant doubts that targeted killings are effective in deterring and defeating terrorism. In Israel, targeted killings have often resulted in increased animosity, surges in violence, and provided a recruiting tool for terrorist organizations. Unfortunately, these effects are consequences of overusing the tactic. The United States must learn from Israel’s mistakes and use targeted killings as a last resort, after every opportunity to capture a terrorist leader is exhausted.
The United States policy of targeted killings drew significant public scrutiny after American born cleric Anwar Al-Aulaqi was killed by a drone strike in late 2011. During several months of debate, many scholars, lawyers and journalists accused the U.S. of executing one of their own citizens without the benefit of due process afforded by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. Finally, last week on 5 March 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder publicized the Obama Administration’s position in a speech at the Northwestern University School of Law. Holder stated, “The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process,” inferring that due process occurs during the Executive Branch’s deliberations on whether or not to conduct the targeted killing. Georgetown University’s Jonathan Turley criticized this interpretation of the constitution “’as the very definition of authoritarian power’” At the very least, this liberal definition of “due process” is a compromise of democratic principles for ensuring security. However, both American and Israeli citizens have made it clear they are willing to make concessions on democratic principles for a perceived sense of safety. Unfortunately targeted killings, whether targeting U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, are only a short term victory and may actually hurt a country’s anti-terror campaign in the long run.
Problems with Targeted Killings
Israel’s targeted killings of Palestinian terrorist leaders often result in increased animosity from sympathetic Palestinian citizens. Commonly used methods of targeted killing involve dropping bombs from fighter aircraft, setting explosives, and shooting Hellfire missiles. Although these methods are effective and reduce the potential for friendly casualties, they are also very indiscriminate and often result in innocent civilian casualties. When Israel targeted Hamas leader Salah Shahada in 2002 with a 2,200 lb...