Advancing a Free Society

Rules for Killing Rogues

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The welcome end of Osama bin Laden at the hands of helicopter-borne American military commandos raises a number of issues.

Americans rejoiced at news of the end of this psychopathic mass murderer, and, privately, are probably relieved that he was not to be captured and extradited to Guantanamo. If bin Laden had been taken alive, we might be revisiting the controversy surrounding the Obama administration's failed efforts to try in a civilian federal court bin Laden's subordinate, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- the master planner behind 9/11.

But what, exactly, are the moral, legal or practical rules in going after terrorist leaders or the savage dictators of rogue regimes? We went into a foreign country to kill, not capture, bin Laden. Was that killing permissible since a firefight preceded it, or because he was a terrorist rather than a head of state?

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