Targeted Killing by Thomas B. Hunter

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MWSA Review

World-wide terrorism has created an environment where it has become necessary for nations to target individuals known to be a present or future threat to those nations' safety and security. This action, known as targeted killing, is distinguished from assassination in that assassination is committed for political or ideological reasons.

Targeted killing, therefore, can be said to be an act of self-defense by a nation; it has no regard for politics or ideology, while assassination is an act that is committed for purely political or ideological reasons.

The reader is lead through a definition of both terms, then presented with state studies, involving targeted killing, of three prominent nations. These state studies provide the reader with an objective look at why targeted killing is sometimes necessary. It also has examples of failed attempts at targeted killing, and the consequences of failed or incomplete targeted killing missions. These consequences can include collateral damage, like the unintentional killing of civilians, or the martyrdom of the terrorist.

Targeted Killing was originally published as a paper that appeared in Henley-Putnam University's Journal of Strategic Security. Its bibliography is extensive and detailed, and it is to be recommended for anyone who has an interest in global terrorism and how it relates to safety and security.

Reviewed by: Larry Wikoff (2011)


Author's Synopsis

Targeted Killing: Self-Defense, Preemption, and the War on Terrorism by Thomas Hunter presents a reasoned, impeccably researched, and multi-faceted analysis of the tactic of targeted killing assessing its role, efficacy, and appropriateness in the current world political and military climate. Target killing is just one available option to national governments in their varied arsenals of state-sponsored strategies and tactics for fighting terrorism. Nevertheless, it is one of the most controversial and logistically dangerous options a government can exercise in preemptive strikes against real and current threats to national security. Author Hunter skillfully maneuvers through the moral, military, political, and tactical issues that can both cloud and clarify a government’s implementation of state-sponsored targeted killing. Written with an expert and precise understanding of the issue, Targeted Killing offers an objective and indispensable perspective on a contentious and timely debate.