There are two main facets to the discussion of assassination as a political tool of governments: wartime and peacetime. One can not ignore either of
these two if a solid position is to be put forth, nor can it solely be discussed as if the sanctioning nation was a major world power combating evil
forces. Consistency, due to the broad nature of the question, would require considering the actions, even if against a major western power, by using
the same criteria used by those western nations themselves. Modern, and generally western, democratic nations are not the only nations involved in
global politics nor the topic at hand, but all nations. If all nations do not have the same rules of conduct applied to them, then the topic has, and
the rules in general have, no legitimacy in a practical world.
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
~ George Orwell, Animal Farm
International law is a bit of a sticky wicket, but it remains the only communally established framework for the interactions between sovereign
nations. Most nations play the game with regards to the United Nations, and previously at the Hague and Geneva conventions, but the rules are often
times vague, easily avoided, or ignored through redefinition or a loosening of definition which will be discussed later. To properly frame the
exceptions, however, the rules must be at least summarized. That being said, state sponsored assassination is prohibited, under most circumstances,
by international law. “The United Nations Charter prohibits the aggressive use of force by one state against another. The Charter also
prohibits interfering in the territory or affairs of another state. Chapter I of the Charter requires that all states must "settle their
international disputes by peaceful means" and must "refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force". When a state
sponsors the assassination of the leader of another state, it violates this basic rule of international law.”
Section 2 Chapter 1 Article 23 of the 1899 Hague Convention prohibits the following:
“To kill or wound treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army”
Art 37. Prohibition of Perfidy expands on this topic by banning attacks that rely on the use of perfidy, or deceit.
It is prohibited to kill, injure or capture an adversary by resort to perfidy. Acts inviting the confidence of an adversary to lead him to believe
that he is entitled to, or is obliged to accord, protection under the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, with intent to betray
that confidence, shall constitute perfidy.
There are two exceptions, one being during a time of war and one during a time of peace as a means of self-defense. The development of the Caroline
Test, a portion of international law, was named after the Caroline affair between the United States and Britain. This principle had three main
requirements for a legitimate act of self-defense, and is the bedrock of the rules of preemptive force. First, self-defense may only be used when the
threat of aggression is, according to Secretary of State Daniel Webster “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for
This means that defensive force may only be used to defend against an act of aggression that is occurring or is about to occur.
Second, force must be necessary in order to defend against the aggression. Any other way to defend against the threat must be used first. Third, the
defensive response must be proportionate to the threatened aggression. Under these restrictions the assassination must be the only way to defend
against the aggression, but may not be used for reprisals against an attack that has already occurred.
The morality of peacetime action must also be considered, especially in the light of modern events and the current supports presented, and if those
same considerations be given to nations that are generally not favored by the western world. Would Iran, North Korea, Cuba, or even China be given
the same consideration if it felt threatened and assassinated President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Lee Myung-bak,
other leaders, or their agents? This is a seriously doubtful and would most likely be seen as casis beli and retaliated against strongly, again
stated as self-defense in the stretched modern view, even if the claim were legitimate.
It should be self-evident that outside of active declared wartime operations, any person should be considered “equal before the law”
are “entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and
obligations and of any criminal charge against him.”
Assassination can be justified based on the greater good or self-defense but realistically it is virtually impossible to prove that or to prove the
guilt of the targeted party outside of court, therefore the killings are based on assumptions or speculation and so cannot be justified morally.
I'd first like to draw a very important distinction here and that is that the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was not a state-sponsored
assassination. Instead he was [ultimately] assassinated by a young man named Gavrilo Princip, who was part of a Serb terrorist group called "the
black hand". This discussion is about state-sponsored assassination and the implications are vastly different
While it’s true that the actions are not the same, the point obviously doesn’t require it be. Without getting too bogged down on side-trails, it
should stand to reason that assassination can have many unintended consequences, and in this case was the primer that created a cascade of events
leading to massive war on a scale unseen at the time and resulting in the deaths of millions. It certainly throws into question the idea that the
death of one could save the lives of thousands or millions, because future events are unknowable in an unpredictable world.
In the end, if assassination had been supported by Russia or Serbia itself, really doesn’t matter.
No, though these are straw man arguments
Again, you aren't distinguishing between state-sponsored assassination and terrorist or citizen-sponsored assassination. We don't have any proof or
definitive evidence that the government was behind the assassination of Martin Luther King
There are no illusions here. There has been a presented assertion that cutting off the head of the snake can or will take the teeth from an enemy or
threat. Regardless of the situation, government, or movement, this principle is simply not true. If there are examples of it being true, they are so
few so as to be inconsequential in terms of broad global principles of national policy instruments or too small of scale to be relevant.
Yes they should, as it is against the law and every soldier takes an oath to obey only lawful orders.
It’s important to note that the rules the government plays by during a time of war or national emergency are not the same as those during a time of
peace, as evidenced by Lincoln’s actions during the civil war or the collection of personal firearms during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
If we are actually legitimately at war, and the definitions and justifications the United States government produces are correct, a fundamental
support of the positive position, then the actions would be technical legal.
If we are not at war, and those justifications are therefore not legitimate or legal, then it would be as unlawful as all the other targeted killing
that has occurred outside the war zone since the start of the “War on Terror”.
Do you agree that only a government has the resources and authority to implement national policy, thus enforcing that policy should be reserved
for those only those with the consent from the people to govern?
The question in two parts:
Yes, a government has the resources and authority to implement national policy by definition. It should be said that government may be defined in a
variety of different ways depending on which nation is being discussed, and important distinction.
Theoretically it would be nice, but the world does not work that way. Consent is a tricky gamut to run considering consent is generally viewed as the
majority view. Not all nations have minority protections and those provided for by the UN are regularly not heeded.
This seems an overly complex question without purpose, no offense.
Do you believe that we should ban any policy instrument that has the potential for abuse? If no, then why would government sponsored assassination be
Assuming “we” to mean the United States of America, or more broadly the western world, government sponsored assassination is quite different to
farm subsidies or taxation. This also flies in the face of the entire topic, as it encompasses all nations, even those run poorly, run by dictators,
or run to the detriment of its own people.
Assassination is much akin to warfare, meaning not to be taken lightly. When viewing the slope it rests atop and the resulting finality of death,
speaking of abuse is a terribly kind way of saying horrific, especially for nations who developed the global definition of basic human rights to begin
If a head of state or military leader compromises the national security of another country, then why should that country not have the option to
neutralize the threat?
To name a few, the fact that the sword cuts both ways certainly seems to be a fact ignored in much of modern Amerocentric thought. Should, for
example, President Obama be assassinated as the Commander in Chief should the United States violate the national security of another in pursuit and
targeted killing of a suspected terrorist? The answer can only be yes if this view is taken, and would have already happened if it were true.
It violates international law generally and would have no foundation as an act of self defense, but merely an act of reprisal. This would remove the
support of public opinion that would be needed to address the violation and chances are could be used to solidify a position of real retaliation or
escalate a full war.
How is one life taken not better than thousands of lives taken?
This has been discussed above in terms of the First World War quite conclusively.
Do you agree that there is a difference between legitimate assassinations and illegitimate assassinations?
No, if one believes in the tenants of justice and looks practically at the world, one can only draw one conclusion. Assassination as a political tool
is not effective, is difficult to prove as self defense, strips legitimacy from the claims of the aggressors, and could very well create a far worse
outcome than anticipated.
Using a tool like that seems foolhardy at best, and if all nations are accountable to the same, it would be better to remove the legitimacy from it
1 – Morgan Brian, Assassination, reviewed 12/19/2010 at swww.enotes.com...
2 – Multiple authors, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations