Chapter

OPERATION NEPTUNE SPEAR: WAS KILLING BIN LADEN A LEGITIMATE MILITARY OBJECTIVE?

Kevin H. Govern

in Targeted Killings

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199646470
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738975 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199646470.003.0014
OPERATION NEPTUNE SPEAR: WAS KILLING BIN LADEN A LEGITIMATE MILITARY OBJECTIVE?

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This chapter takes the killing of Osama bin Laden as a test case for considering the moral and legal status of intentionally killing individuals deemed a threat to national security, under conditions in which the object of the targeted attack is offered little or no opportunity to surrender to attacking forces. The target in such operations, in short, is treated as though he were a belligerent: a person placed on a kill list may be targeted in a way that would be legitimate if he were an enemy combatant. It is argued that bin Laden was a legitimate military target, and that the decision-makers involved in his killing had thoroughly considered the range of options available to stop bin Laden from further terroristic acts, and were warranted in the decision to lean towards targeted killing in lieu of a capture operation. Thus, those who carried out the killing were within their scope of authority and responsibility for killing rather than for capturing bin Laden.

Keywords: targeted killing; Osama bin Laden; national security threat; belligerent

Chapter.  13560 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

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