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The obvious motivation for the question is the latest news: U.S. kills al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri in drone strike

Targeted assassinations are a reality of political and military life, and perhaps an unavoidable necessity when it comes to national security. Yet, in my understanding it does not square with the western values, notably as:

  • extrajudicial punishment (no due process)
  • violation of other country sovereignty
  • in some cases violence against its own citizens

There are multiple examples of such violence not being condoned by the Western world:

  • Outcry about such actions carried out on the western soil, e.g., those attributed to Russia
  • Policy of ambiguity in respect to such actions, e.g., as practiced by Israel (i.e., refusing to acknowledge them, while not denying sometimes irrefutable evidence)
  • Traditional secrecy surrounding such actions in popular culture, e.g. the secret nature of agents like James Bond
  • Scandals when such actions are uncovered, e.g. the sinking of "Rainbow warrior" by the French secret services.

In this sense, the US president openly claiming personal responsibility for a killing looks somewhat unsavory. What is the rationale for this US policy? Is it due to different understanding of "western values" in the US and elsewhere? Is there criticism of such policies from within the US?

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13 Answers 13

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Quoting Biden:

“The United States continues to demonstrate its resolve and capacity to defend Americans from those who seek to do it harm,” Biden said, making it “clear again [that] no matter how long it takes, no matter how you hide … the United States will find you and seek you out.”

Deterrence only works if the people you are deterring know you are trying to deter them.

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    "Deterrence only works if the people you are deterring know you are trying to deter them" [Citation needed] As with death penalty supposed deterrence value, that very much needs to be proved. Palestinians are well aware the IDF is trying to deter them. It hasn't stopped them in 70 years, and probably this deterrence tactic is the cause. That's just plain vengeance, not deterrence.
    – Rekesoft
    Aug 3 at 8:50
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    It's not so much that deterrence definitely works if people know about it, it's more that deterrence cannot work if nobody knows about it. (Hence e.g. most nuclear powers announce their holdings and even Israel drops hints about its nuclear weapons even though it doesn't confirm them. But then it's hard to hide a nuclear test.)
    – Stuart F
    Aug 3 at 9:37
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    @Rekesoft perhaps, but if people want to believe that announcing the assassination will deter future attacks, then that's what they'll do, even if it's ineffective.
    – Allure
    Aug 3 at 9:43
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    @Allure the problem with Putin and Biden acting alike is that it serves the narrative of the former - that Russia acts no differently from its western counterparts, whereas the West pretends to uphold a superior moral position. Aug 3 at 10:11
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    @Rekesoft That deterrence sometimes does not work even if the target knows about it does not at all contradict the notion that deterrence cannot work if the target doesn't know about it. You can only win the lottery by buying a ticket, that doesn't imply that you will win when buying a ticket - you can only successfully deter when publicizing deterrence, that doesn't imply that you will successfully deter when publicizing deterrence. Aug 3 at 15:53
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There are multiple aspects to this question.

First, and maybe most obviously, announcing something that could have remained secret is usually done because the political entity doing the announcing assumes it will gain political capital from making the announcement. In the case of targeted assassinations conducted by the US government, the target here was a 'top terrorist' according to the same government – it does not matter if you believe that or not, what matters is whether a majority of the US population does. Assassinating a top terrorist can serve to make the population as a whole feel safer, can send the message that leadership is strong, etc. All these are positive messages which is why US presidents generally announce successful completion of targeted assassinations to boost their own standing. The timing of the announcement may or may not be influenced by domestic issues such as diverting attention away from a scandal. It is hard to say as by the very nature of such a secret targeted assassination the exact time it occurred is generally unknown.

Second, such an announcement will only be made if the announcing party will not suffer repercussions on the international stage for it. In the US case, these assassinations are nowadays typically spun to be part of the 'War on Terror' which itself was announced after the terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001. Declaring the entire operation a war allows the US government to defend war-like tactics rather easily that would not be well-received in peacetime. Contrary to that and directly using your example, the French government most certainly did not want to declare war on Greenpeace or environmental protection organisations in general and could therefore not fall back on war-like rhetoric. Instead, openly acknowledging such an act would likely lead to international condamnation for interfering with the right to peaceful protest. Most governments that are not the United States will need to carefully balance to domestic pros and the international cons of declaring they performed an act.

Third, there are many accusations of double standards both against the United States and other western nations. Many countries accuse the western world of only caring about human rights in non-western countries to criticise the leadership of these countries – and many western NGOs such as Amnesty International will readily agree, saying that the western human rights record is far from perfect and far more energy should be invested in protecting domestic human rights. Among the accusations against the United States specifically are:

  • unlawful imprisonment of suspects without access to legal counsel (e.g. in Guantanamo)
  • torture (e.g. Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib)
  • extrajudicial killings of civilians and non-combattants (drone strikes, etc.)

All of these are top-tier human rights violations that western governments like to call out in other countries when it is politically opportune for them to do so. What matters is again the first and the second points: as long as the US government can profit domestically and does not lose too much standing internationally, there is little preventing it from going ahead.

Many people have identified Obama as a prime example of such a double standard. When he ran for office in 2008, one of his campaign promises was to close the camp in Guantanamo. When he left office in 2016, Guantanamo was alive and well with prisoners still inside.


We can talk about your examples and why they would be different.

In the Russian case, I suspect there is not enough domestic approval for the outright killing of domestic opponents. In the end, I believe they are seen as people even if a majority would disagree with their political or journalistic ideals – again, whether this is justified or a product of propaganda is irrelevant. The Russian government does not see it as politically beneficial to declare that they performed these assassinations so they do not. On the other hand, I suspect that any assassinations they carry out that they could tie to the ongoing war in Ukraine would be declared as such.

Israel knows that its existence is, to a large part, dependent on western goodwill, specifically in the United States. Therefore, the deciding factor is less domestic politics and more international politics. It thus prefers to keep plausible deniability and not openly declare targeted assassinations as they would lead to decreasing goodwill in many western countries.

I have already touched on the Rainbow Warrior above, but I'll say it again: it was politically very bad for the French government when it was publicised and thus there would have been absolutely zero impetus to declare it unprompted.

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    In the case of the Rainbow Warrior France was held responsible in front of a tribunal and they paid a compensation. So mixing this case with cases that will never be prosecuted is just convenient for your point, not to explain the situation.
    – FluidCode
    Aug 2 at 14:17
  • In the Russian case domestic approval matters little.
    – FluidCode
    Aug 2 at 14:18
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    @FluidCode The only reason I even refer to the Rainbow Warrior is because it was mentioned in the question. It happened before I was born so it is not part of my political memory.
    – Jan
    Aug 2 at 14:23
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    @FluidCode I am going to argue that domestic approval matters a lot to Putin, as everything he does (or does not do) is somehow tied into increasing or upholding his domestic approval.
    – Jan
    Aug 2 at 14:24
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    @FluidCode Domestic approval does matter quite a lot even in Russia (and China, and any other functionally authoritarian state), at least for political assassinations (which constitute most of the known assassinations mediated by such states). Actively announcing targeted political assassinations would run a significant risk of the targets becoming ideological martyrs, which would cause serious long-term domestic issues for the government Aug 2 at 18:51
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The case of Al Zawahiri was quite clear cut since the evidence he was a threat to the US is in the video messages he himself recorded. Furthermore it was evident that apprehending him in a legal manner was difficult given the situation in Afghanistan.

Making a lot of publicity to clear cut cases like this helps to justify similar actions that are not so clear cut and often happen without the media taking too much notice.

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Assassination

The term "assassination" is political and implies a set of conditions which are not necessarily present. In particular, it generally presumes that the target is a non-combatant. After all, nobody accuses soldiers of "assassinating" an enemy during war, even if the enemy is a prominent, well-known figure. On the other hand, Mossad killing an Iranian nuclear scientist is generally agreed to be an "assassination" because such scientists are not direct combatants (whether or not their work product is ultimately used in war).

To the extent that al-Zawahiri was the #2 leader of al-Qaeda during the 9/11 attacks, that many credited him with being the actual tactical mastermind behind the attacks, and the proclaimed leader of al-Qaeda after the death of bin Laden, it is specious at best to pretend that al-Zawahiri was not a combatant. It would be like saying that Donald Rumsfeld was not a combatant because he wandered the Pentagon in a suit without stars on it.

Targeted Killing

A more neutral term is "targeted killing", which appropriately describes the solitary nature of the violence, without the politically contentious overtones (though for many, it is just as loaded). When Ukraine lobs a volley of HIMARs at a Russian command center and kills half a dozen generals, nobody calls that an "assassination". Nor is it just a lucky artillery strike. They clearly meant to kill one or more high-ranking officials, and have no intent to destroy everything in a 1 km radius. It's a targeted killing. Whether it's justified or not must be weighed by the individual circumstances of the event. It's not dictated by the fact that everyone calls it a "targeted killing".

America could not force al-Qaeda into surrender, complete with the arrest of its leaders to be put on trial at the Hague. If this were feasible, then the gov't would be rightfully criticized by others for not taking such a route. So what does one expect a country to do in response to a global terrorist organization like al-Qaeda? Plead for mercy? Accede to all their demands?

International Response

So far, only Canada, Australia, and Saudi Arabia have commented on the event. Saudi Arabia, for one, called it a "targeted killing", not an "assassination". Even the Taliban doesn't call it an "assassination", though that is largely because they are not yet admitting that al-Zawahiri was actually killed. Notable that Iran, NK, al-Qaeda, and other US enemies have not taken the time to call it an unjust assassination.

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    Upvoted because the is the only answer that includes "Targeted Killing." The United States never admits to assassinations. It's double-speak, a euphemism to avoid crimes against humanity. Note that the US has not declared war in many of the countries in which it has assassinated folks, which is also a move to avoid the constitutional legal requirement that all wars are declared by Congress, not the Executive Branch. Aug 3 at 10:17
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    " In particular, it generally presumes that the target is a non-combatant. " <- It assumes the killing was not in the context of combat, not that the person killed does not engage in combat. Also, it's not obvious to me that A-Zahawiri was at this point in time a "combatant" rather than a leader of an organization which engages in combat, and those are not necessarily the same.
    – einpoklum
    Aug 3 at 11:31
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    @einpoklum so are generals who never step foot in the field "combatants" or not? Aug 3 at 15:57
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    @LawnmowerMan: I'm not sure. On the one hand, there's the fact they're not actually fighting anybody themselves; on the other hand, they're officially in the military, and have forfeited their lives in many respects by entering it. ... but - even if you drone a Private on his vacation from the front, back at home - that's an assassination, albeit a silly one.
    – einpoklum
    Aug 4 at 0:06
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    @einpoklum if I understand you correctly, a combat kill is only ethical if it happens "on the clock". You thus imply that al-Zawahiri was not "on the clock". I will turn this around and ask for his time card so that you can demonstrate affirmatively that he was not actively plotting another terrorist attack at the location which was bombed. Aug 4 at 19:32
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The US conducts a "Global War on Terror". This is an open war. While specific acts might be secret, it's no secret that the US is using systematic acts of violence, just like in classic wars against states. There's no expectation on a US president to apologize for fighting terrorists. We'd expect an apology for failures, not for successes.

Like in other wars, there is no concept of "due process" when killing enemy combatants. Like in other wars, the sovereignty of other countries is not consistently honored, especially when those countries have a more than fleeting involvement. And like in other wars, being a citizen of one country while also being a combatant against that country is not considered a cause for immunity; if anything those people are considered traitors.

Russia of course is fighting its own non-classical war - not a War on Terrorism, but a War on Democracy. The West as a whole is not happy with that. That is a direct attack on Western values, entirely opposite of the attack on terrorism.

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    It is not about apologizing, but about taking pride in it, using the image of murder for public relations, etc. Aug 2 at 11:46
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    "Russia of course is fighting [...] a War on Democracy." Russia is fighting to take control of the coal fields and the other resources they can get from the Ukrainian territory. On their side the US invaded a lot of countries to control oil fields and mineral resources. Democracy has nothing to do with it.
    – FluidCode
    Aug 2 at 11:48
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    Global War on Terror is a definition that does not exist in the international law. If in a country there is an entity that represent a threat to another country the legal procedure is a request for extradition. If the host country refuses the extradition then and only then it is considered an act of war and may be retaliated with a war declaration.
    – FluidCode
    Aug 2 at 11:58
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    "especially when those countries have a more than fleeting involvement" The US invaded Iraq even if there was no evidence whatsoever of an involvement in the 9/11 attacks. So even if the claim is used to justify the "war on terror" its validity in many specific event is doubtful.
    – FluidCode
    Aug 2 at 12:07
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    @FluidCode: So what if these terms are not defined in international law? The question was why the US government acknowledges the killing of al-Zawahiri. The US does define the Global War on Terror, and they are the subject of this question. Similarly, legal justifications are needed in courts, but the "court of public opinion" is not a real court. On Law.SE these comments might be somewhat more relevant.
    – MSalters
    Aug 2 at 12:17
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I think the simple answer is that it's all down to the reasons for the attacks and what American political leadership feels would look good to their public and their allies. The scenarios presented in the OP are not "apples to apples".

Killing a terrorist leader in a country ruled by unfriendly leadership that appears to be harboring them: this is deemed, by American political leadership, to be good optics for America and its allies. If the country in question is largely lawless, that works too. "We acted because local law enforcement could not or would not act."

By comparison, doing a drone strike on a terrorist leader in, say, downtown Paris would be met with a very different response, both for violating an ally and presumably for not trusting them to handle the situation on their own. Similarly, France killing a terrorist in New York using a drone strike would not go over well. You might say it's a "double standard" to be okay in Afghanistan and not okay in New York but the politics in play and the law enforcement situation are entirely different.

Along those same lines, a targeted political assassination, as we have seen Russia perform, against people that the West would not agree to killing, obviously gets a very different response in Western nations. If, say, President Biden had killed a political opponent in Afghanistan that would be very different. (Worse still if he did it in, say, Paris.)

But if Russia tracked down someone that has masterminded an attack in Moscow, and killed them with a drone strike in Bolivia, I don't think you'd see much outcry from the West about that, as that would closely parallel exactly the sort of things the West does, for the same reasons.

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  • "We acted because local law enforcement could not or would not act." <- But the US is not saying that, to my knowledge. Did they even request for extradition? (i.e. do they even lift?)
    – einpoklum
    Aug 4 at 20:53
  • @einpoklum - Yes -- the US account is that he was staying at a home owned by an aide of a Taliban deputy leader (Sirajuddin Haqqani). Of course, the Taliban say they had no idea this was happening. But yeah, the US, at least, claims the Taliban knew, and were harboring him.
    – JamieB
    Aug 5 at 21:26
  • You start your answer with "Yes", but the rest of what you write suggests "No". i.e. the US has does not seem to have formally requested the Afghan government extradite A-Zahawiri to them.
    – einpoklum
    Aug 5 at 22:17
  • @einpoklum - Formally asking a hostile government for extradition of a person they are known to be harboring is a step I think you'll find most countries skip. I'm not sure why you're fixated on that being some kind of requirement. Clearly, the US does not think it is, nor, apparently, do any of her allies, judging by the lack of outcry.
    – JamieB
    Aug 6 at 6:14
  • So, we've agreed that it's a "no" then? Ok. Well, in that case, the appearance harboring has not been established. "is a step I think you'll find most countries skip" <- Most countries can't skip this, since they have nowhere to skip to. Or, ok, theoretically they might be able to send assassins, but most countries don't do that, or at least do so little of it that we don't hear about it. For most countries it is also risky, since unlike the US, they might be the object of significant retaliation if their assassins are caught.
    – einpoklum
    Aug 6 at 6:55
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If I can give a bit of a realist answer, who's going to condemn it? By and large, the people the United States targets are individuals that the global community has universally denounced and branded terrorists. They are typically individuals who have been renounced by their countries of origin, and often the country they are currently in. One really only hears any sort of hay about them when there is unacceptable collateral damage.

As to the legality, as far as the U.S. is concerned, every single person targeted in these aerial strikes is in a declared or undeclared state of war with the United States. These strictly speaking are not "assassinations" at all, they're military operations carried out by military personnel against military targets. Theoretically their legality is no different than bombing the German high command in WWII. And if the German high command snuck into neutral Switzerland and started operating in civilian areas, guess what? The Allies would've bombed them there as well.

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    The realist view is correct when it comes to the US public. The rest of western democracies will be likely confirmed in their view that America... and the authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations will gain maximum of mileage from claiming that the US is acting just like them. Aug 3 at 10:16
  • "Who's going to condemn it?" - Most people in the world, I would think. The peoples of the world disapprove of self-serving and often hostile powers taking liberties running military operations in their countries. This kind of action is even recognized legally as illegal and illegitimate, IIANM.
    – einpoklum
    Aug 4 at 0:13
  • The difference in legality is perhaps more obvious when "collateral damage" occurs - if a civilian is killed in a war zone, then that is generally considered unfortunate, but they share a degree of blame for remaining. If the next-door neighbour to a terrorist is killed, that is a different matter - they had no idea of the risk...
    – MikeB
    Aug 4 at 20:49
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Targeted assassinations

They're just "assassinations"... all assassinations are targeted.

are a reality of political and military life

For most world states - they are not. They have an absolutely dreadful effect on the potential of amicable resolution of conflicts, because not only are they a hostile/belligerent act in themselves, but their effects on the attitudes of political leaders and the populace of the country in which the assassination was carried out is extremely negative.

When state A targets state B with an assassination (assuming it is not both clandestine and easily attributable to a third party, which is another kettle of fish) - almost the only way state A can get state B to later accept its requests or expectations on various matters is through the surrender and submission of B. So, if I look at assassinations by states today, I see them in situations of strong imbalances of power: US vs Iran, Israel vs the Palestinians, to a lesser extent US vs Russia. For other state pairs, this is not a reality of life.

and perhaps an unavoidable necessity when it comes to national security.

As it is not an option for most states, obviously it's quite avoidable. But the US defines its "national security" as more-or-less world hegemony, and when that's the case, who's to say what's unavoidable.

Yet, in my understanding it does not square with the western values:

extrajudicial punishment (no due process),

This is a never-ending struggle, mostly internal and also external to states. Without significant, constant, public push-back against state institutions, due process rights get eroded, or not introduced when they are missing. In particular, w.r.t. the US, there is very little due process tradition preventing you from getting shot by law enforcement: US police kill well over 1,000 (maybe 2,000?) people annually without having been attacked, with no process whatsoever.

violation of other country sovereignty

Since when is that a western value? This has been the favorite pastime of European powers and the US for centuries. Not that other world states aren't guilty of this as well, but - come on. Actually, IMNSHO, the whole notion of sovereignty is historically a powerful minority getting control over an area and its residents and sanctifying the legitimacy of that act and its consequences.

in some cases violence against its own citizens

We could argue about this, but - Zawahiri is not a US citizen; nor would it have helped him, as even a citizen like Anwar Al-Awlaki was assassinated in Yemen by the US and there wasn't even a public outcry, let alone criminal and impeachment proceedings. After all, such people are not "one of us", the perceived group worthy of procedural protections.

In this sense, the US president openly claiming personal responsibility for a killing looks somewhat unsavory.

Don't you remember that US presidents, at least since Obama, have a "kill list" which they sign off on, weekly or otherwise routinely?

See the Disposition Matrix Wikipedia page and references therein.

What is the rationale for this US policy?

Well, I would say that the political culture in the US seems to be gradually moving towards unfettering the top echelons of government of even the semblance of the same legal and moral requirements normatively applied to individuals or non-privileged organizations. This is perhaps ironic, as the US has historically touted this not being the case as one of the attractive features of its regime, and aspect of the people's liberty, but - well, the times they are a-changin'.

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Is it due to different understanding of "western values" in the US and elsewhere?

No, France also carried out such killings and claimed responsibility for them, e.g. in Mali:

France's army said Monday that its anti-jihadist force in Mali had killed Yahia Djouadi, a "senior leader" of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) responsible for finance and logistics. [...] It added that he was killed by ground forces supported by a Tiger attack helicopter and two drones.

Or:

The head of the Islamic State group in the Sahara has been killed by French troops, President Emmanuel Macron has said. [...] Mr Macron did not disclose the location or any details of the operation.

France 24 called the latter strike an "opportunistic hit", as apparently the individual was not identified beforehand but a drone strike targeted two armed people riding a motorbike in a "zone of activity of Islamic State group militants”.

One point that one could say is somewhat unclear (just from those examples) is how much effort the French made to identify the leadership and target them specifically, as opposed to waiting/hoping they fall to everyday air strikes and ground operations. But it's clear the French leadership (sometimes the president himself) is keen enough to emphasize such successes against the terrorist leadership, no matter how they came about.

If one glosses over the extra-territorial aspect and/or lack of cooperation of the foreign government, there isn't really any (other) difference I can see. Russia and China also openly claimed killing terrorists in operations that aren't too dissimilar, albeit on their own soil; Basayev, for instance. Unlike for novichoks, there wasn't really any outcry about this even in the West due to whom the target was. Someone like Basayev, who claimed several terror attacks would not have been given asylum in the West. Killing (or attempting to kill) a defector from the intelligence services, is a different matter, according to Western standards. Even more so a political opponent whose main weapon seems to be [anti-]corruption documentaries. There was slightly more concern in the West about some Chinese actions, due to the obscurity of both the operational details and the identity of the claimed target(s).

Now you could say that the debate on using armed drones (at all) was much more polarized in Germany. Without these means it's generally much harder to carry out such leadership-targeting operations against terrorist groups abroad, so e.g. "Merkel's War" (as opponents called it) against ISIS was generally carried out by conventional manned aircraft ... and even these were used in a purely reconnaissance role (if Wikipedia is correct on this). The German opposition to armed drones was based in no small part on the perspective that they would have take part in such "targeted killing" operations in cooperation with other Western countries, if the means were to become available. As of late 2020, attempts by the CDU to get such weapons for the German armed forces were rebuffed by the other parties. That German taboo also seems to have falled by the wayside in 2022, although it's to early to say how Germany will use such means in the future.

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  • Some relevant examples here, +1. Aug 4 at 4:31
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    A significant part of the outcry over the attempted assassination of Skripal was due to it being carried out on British territory using an indiscriminate chemical weapon (indeed, a British citizen was killed in the attempt). Had the Russian security services tried to kill Basayev under similar circumstances, it seems likely there would still have been a lot of criticism, so it's not just a matter of who the target is. Aug 5 at 10:31
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The problem is your frame. This is considered, more or less, an action of war. It is not viewed as simple political dispute.

Al Qaeda is not a US recognized state. Further, it is recognized as a terrorist organization. They are "enemies of the state", as such, there is neither need nor right that individuals have a trial. There is no violation against sovereignty, since they have none anyway. There is some tendency to apply this harsh behavior unevenly. Those of lesser position within the organization often find leniency. They are typically captured and detained, rather than assassinated, if that is a possibility. However, high up officials are rarely able to be captured without great losses, and if they are and tried, there is greater issues than "image among peers" that crop up. Those lowest on the totem pole are in the worst position. They are typically targeted lethally as "hostiles", and no one usually cares how many of them are killed.

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    I meant the sovereignty of the state on whose territory the killing was carried out Aug 3 at 10:18
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    They are "enemies of the state", as such, there is neither need nor right that individuals have a trial. Trouble is that when you allow a public official to decide who is an enemy of the state bypassing the check and balances system you give them too much power. Not all of those killed by drone strikes were affiliated to a terrorist organisation. Not all the cases were so clear cut like this one. Most of the cases that received muffled attention by the media were the result of arbitrary decisions.
    – FluidCode
    Aug 3 at 10:56
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Publicizing this is for US domestic political reasons nothing else.

In this sense, the US president openly claiming personal responsibility for a killing looks somewhat unsavory.

On the contrary. The audience this is aimed at is a domestic US one that part of the US voter pool that considers it right to attack anyone they consider a threat. This is aimed at making the president look "tough" to that audience or at least not "weak".

Outside the US this is not a death that will really upset anyone the US care about. Vague noises of protest may be made but nothing serious.

What is the rationale for this US policy?

Killing terrorists is not really a policy that needs any explanation. Telling people of some of what is happening (we're not being told everything the US does) is not a policy just a selective statement intended to appeal to US voters of a particular leaning. This is not a policy and the US considers (correctly) that no major objections will be made by otehr countries they care about.

Is it due to different understanding of "western values" in the US and elsewhere? Is there criticism of such policies from within the US?

Publicizing something is not a policy it's just a tactical act of political expedience. If the US had a policy of always publishing such killings (and there's no way to know if they do or don't) it would be a policy. There is however no statement of such a policy.

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  • how does one support the "nothing else" aspect of your first sentence in bold?
    – uhoh
    Aug 4 at 1:43
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    @uhoh I am saying that the purpose of publishing the murder has no purpose other than a political one. There would be little doubt amoung the inteligence communities or the terrorists groups who killed him - it's not news to them whether it's announced or not. Telling them achieves nothing. It also won't deter people who already hate the US any more than the death penalty deters criminals. Aug 4 at 10:19
  • So the world consists of only US citizens and terrorists? There isn't anyone else watching the news?
    – uhoh
    Aug 4 at 13:41
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    @uhoh I'm saying that the US president does not in this case consider what the rest of teh world thinks as relevant. It's a safe bet that anyone the US is going to have reasonable relations with won't be mourning the death of this individual and will make minimal (if any) official protest or comment. The purpose of the annoncement is therefore domestic. Aug 4 at 14:25
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    @RogerVadim There is some ambiguity in the term "policy" no matter how you define it. I would say that this is a selective announcement rather than a policy. The killing itself may be viewed either as a military tactic or a politically expedient act, or both for they are not mutually exclusive. But the announcement itself is (IMO) not part of a policy, which to me means more a strategic goal, not a tactical one. Aug 5 at 14:52
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For the same reason that they openly admit to planning coups in foreign countries. It's disguised as being done for democracy.

While the US and western powers are demolishing countries all over the world in the name of democracy, a lot of citizens in the US or Western Europe are actually opposed to it. The hypocrisy of one claiming they're the pillar of international law, human rights and democracy, while at the same time toppeling governments all over by the world by force, is absurd at best. And leader's in the US and western Europe fail to understand that in their fight against "authoritarian regimes" and "dictators", they're behaving in the very same way but on a much larger scale. The US went from "world police" to "global dictator" over the past 5 decades.

The US even admits openly that they're using Media to spread propaganda in their "information war" against other countries.

Conclusion: The western world has grown accustomed to the US to the point that whatever the US does, it's effectively justified and will not be condemned. Our politicians have spent a life-time of watching Hollywood movies and watching US content on TV to the point that they've completely lost sight and have no self awareness of exactly how dependent they've become. It has to be the most successful case of brainwashing in human history.

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  • "The western world has grown accustomed to the US to the point that ..." This is not true. The USA trough their financial system took control of the media and the political parties, it got to the point that there is a strong disconnect between what you hear and what is the public opinion.
    – FluidCode
    Nov 16 at 9:34
-1

USA is convinced that these killings are legitimate, honest and appropriate. Hence there is no reason to hide them.

It may be other views on this of course but these views are held by others. It is the view of USA that matters for explaining the behavior of the USA, this is that the question asks about.

USA has some reasons to assume that the targeted killings they do are legal. The law court initially takes place, sentencing the targeted persons to death. Here is the reference on the court of Bin Laden and few others.

In other cases, the killed person is reasonably assumed to be the enemy combatant belonging to the side at war. It has been told in Bin Laden court that while he can also be sentenced to death, killing as a combatant would be enough.

This explains why they do not see they later actions as violations of the law.

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  • 1
    This is not correct. As I wrote in my answer the USA attract the attention to famous cases to justify their policy. But there were many people in Afghanistan and Pakistan (Pashtun areas) killed in targeted assassinations and labelled as Taliban leaders with no court examination and no legal justification whatsoever. The same happened for targeted assassinations in other conflict zones like Syria and Yemen where each country had few famous cases that got a lot of publicity and other cases that passed under the radar.
    – FluidCode
    Nov 16 at 9:27
  • Assuming USA have been at war with Taliban at the time, the "Taliban leaders" are the enemy combatants.
    – Stančikas
    Nov 16 at 9:58
  • "Assuming USA have been at war with Taliban" The USA did not declare war to Pakistan, they did not declare war to Yemen and they did not declare war to Syria and most of the other countries where targeted assassinations happened.
    – FluidCode
    Nov 16 at 10:02
  • So they simply arrived to Pakistan and have done a targeted killing of some random person just for fun? Or they had some rationale behind? It would be easier to answer if you explain about whom are you talking about.
    – Stančikas
    Nov 16 at 10:08
  • "So they simply arrived to Pakistan ..." Basically you are saying that either they had a legal justification or they had no logic reason. This kind of either-or reasoning that does not take into account the million of possibilities that happen in the real world is a classic propaganda trick that I am not going to discuss, it would be a waste of time.
    – FluidCode
    Nov 16 at 10:22

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