In this “for and against” book, Jeremy Waldron and Tamar Meisels defend competing positions on the legitimacy of targeted killing. The volume begins with a joint introduction, briefly setting out the terms of discussion, and presenting a short historical overview of the practice—i.e. what is targeted killing, and how has it been used in which conflicts and by whom. The debate opens with Meisels’ defense of targeted killing as a legitimate and desirable defensive anti-terrorism strategy, in keeping with both just war theory and international law. Meisels unreservedly defends the named killing of irregular combatants, most notably terrorists, during armed conflict. Additionally, she offers a possible moral justification for rare instances of assassination outside that framework, specifically with reference to recent cases of nuclear scientists developing weapons of mass destruction for the Iranian and Syrian governments. The debate continues with Waldron’s arguments focusing on the dangers and the inherent wrongness of governments’ having the right to maintain death lists—lists of named individuals who are to be hunted down and killed. Waldron notes the many differences between individualized targeting and ordinary combat, and he resists the attempt to assimilate targeted killing to killings in combat. Waldron also cautions us to consider carefully what a world of targeted killings will be like, the many abuses it is liable to, and why we should be very cautious, morally and strategically, in our thinking about it.
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