Why it’s good
Targeted killings are flat out more efficient. Take a look at some numbers. Within Iraq from 2003 to 2008, there occurred 92, 614 civilian deaths from coalition forces, insurgents, or a combination of the two. On the other hand during the same period of time, only 15, 797 Taliban members were killed: meaning that the civilian to Taliban death ratio for 5 years of combat was roughly 6 to 1. On the other hand, from 2000 to 2006, a greater period of time than the previous statistic, 204 named combatants were successfully targeted, while only 115 civilians were killed, a civilian to Taliban death ratio of 1 to 2. Sorry, that’s a lot of numbers, but ultimately, we are looking at targeted killing as the lesser of two evils. Both will result in civilian deaths, but less will come from the use of targeted killings.
|Predator drone strikes are a common form of|
Why it’s bad
Looking back at the previous statistics, some might notice the lack of current dates. 2005 isn’t that far back, but a lot can change in seven years. Why the lack of data? Honestly, it’s almost impossible to find current information and statistics regarding targeted killings. Simply put, the government doesn’t allow it, which leads us to one of the biggest issues regarding targeted killings: accountability. There is no specific policy in International Law regarding targeted killings, and therefore it’s very loosely regulated. The United States and Israel—the leading practitioners of targeted killings, both have pretty strict regulations that include verifying the target, limiting civilian damage and withdrawing if a less harmful alternative is available. Sounds good right? It would be, if they were obligated to reveal any evidence that these precautions have been followed. The Council of Foreign Relations mentions that these governments have “refused to disclose who has been killed, for what reason, and with what collateral consequences”. Additionally, soon after these guidelines were set down it was discovered that “Israeli forces [had] conducted targeted killings in violation of the Supreme Court’s requirements”. This is a pretty big deal when you consider these countries may be dropping a bomb the size of a small horse and accidentally obliterating a possibly innocent civilian into a small pile of charred ash. And Russia, the third largest user of targeted killings, has no restrictions at all. Carrying out seek and destroy missions, it is widely accepted that “there appears to be no restriction on the use of military force to suppress international terrorist activity”.
|The turnover of power from President Saleh to Hadi on|
February 27th marked the advent of a new level of
violence in Yemen
The answer (or lack thereof)
Essentially, there’s no right answer. The tactic works in some places successfully while in others the repercussions are too great to justify its use, and there’s no rhyme or reason to why it is or isn’t effective in different areas. This being said, probably the next biggest thing we can look to is freedom. With countries being able to exercise this much unchecked power over who they can assassinate, it creates a major accountability gap, suggesting that maybe the world is not ready to hand over this responsibility to individual countries before a standard policy is set forth. It may not seem important now, but the next time the Russian government fails to verify its target and plants a land mine outside your home instead of the terrorist’s next door, you’ll be sorry.