Targeted killing as a first resort outside active hostilities



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Net-beneficial---restricting targeted killing as a first resort outside active hostilities collapses counter-terrorism by signaling availability of safe havens and immunity from strikes---the “unable-unwilling” framework’s a distinct and better alternative


Geoffrey Corn 13, Professor of Law and Presidential Research Professor, South Texas College of Law, 5/16/13, Statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee, CQ Congressional Testimony, lexis

3. What is the geographic scope of the AUMF and under what circumstances may the United States attack belligerent targets in the territory of another country?

In my opinion, there is no need to amend the AUMF to define the geographic scope of military operations it authorizes. On the contrary, I believe doing so would fundamentally undermine the efficacy of U.S. counter-terror military operations by overtly signaling to the enemy exactly where to pursue safe-haven and de facto immunity from the reach of U.S. power. This concern is similar to that associated with explicitly defining co- belligerents subject to the AUMF, although I believe it is substantially more significant. It is an operational and tactical axiom that insurgent and non-state threats rarely seek the proverbial "toe to toe" confrontation with clearly superior military forces. Al Qaeda is no different. Indeed, their attempts to engage in such tactics in the initial phases of Operation Enduring Freedom proved disastrous, and ostensibly caused the dispersion of operational capabilities that then necessitated the co-belligerent assessment. Imposing an arbitrary geographic limitation of the scope of military operations against this threat would therefore be inconsistent with the strategic objective of preventing future terrorist attacks against the United States.

I believe much of the momentum for asserting some arbitrary geographic limitation on the scope of operations conducted to disrupt or disable al Qaeda belligerent capabilities is the result of the commonly used term "hot battlefield." This notion of a "hot" battlefield is, in my opinion, an operational and legal fiction. Nothing in the law of armed conflict or military doctrine defines the meaning of "battlefield." Contrary to the erroneous assertions that the use of combat power is restricted to defined geographic locations such as Afghanistan (and previously Iraq), the geographic scope of armed conflict must be dictated by a totality assessment of a variety of factors, ultimately driven by the strategic end state the nation seeks to achieve. The nature and dynamics of the threat -including key vulnerabilities - is a vital factor in this analysis. These threat dynamics properly influence the assessment of enemy capabilities and vulnerabilities, which in turn drive the formulation of national strategy, which includes determining when, where, and how to leverage national power (including military power) to achieve desired operational effects. Thus, threat dynamics, and not some geographic "box", have historically driven and must continue to drive the scope of armed hostilities. The logic of this premise is validated by (in my opinion) the inability to identify an armed conflict in modern history where the scope of operations was legally restricted by a conception of a "hot" battlefield. Instead, threat dynamics coupled with policy, diplomatic considerations and, in certain armed conflicts the international law of neutrality, dictate such scope. Ultimately, battlefields become "hot" when persons, places, or things assessed as lawful military objectives pursuant to the law of armed conflict are subjected to attack.



I do not, however, intend to suggest that it is proper to view the entire globe as a battlefield in the military component of our struggle against al Qaeda, or that threat dynamics are the only considerations in assessing the scope of military operations. Instead, complex considerations of policy and diplomacy have and must continue to influence this assessment. However, suggesting that the proper scope of combat operations is dictated by a legal conception of "hot" battlefield is operationally irrational and legally unsound. Accordingly, placing policy limits on the scope of combat operations conducted pursuant to the legal authority provided by the AUMF is both logical and appropriate, and in my view has been a cornerstone of U.S. use of force policy since the enactment of the AUMF. In contrast, interpreting the law of armed conflict to place legal limits on the scope of such operations to "hot" battlefields, or imposing such a legal limitation in the terms of the AUMF, creates a perverse incentive for the belligerent enemy by allowing him to dictate when and where he will be subject to lawful attack.

I believe this balance between legal authority and policy and diplomatic considerations is reflected in what is commonly termed the "unable or unwilling" test for assessing when attacking an enemy belligerent capability in the territory of another country is permissible. First, it should be noted that the legality of an attack against an enemy belligerent is determined exclusively by the law of armed conflict when the country where he is located provides consent for such action (is the target lawful within the meaning of the law and will attack of the target comply with the targeting principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in the attack). In the unusual circumstance where a lawful object of attack associated with al Qaeda and therefore falling within the scope of the AUMF is identified in the territory of another country not providing consent for U.S. military action, policy and diplomacy play a decisive role in the attack decision-making process. Only when the U.S. concludes that the country is unable or unwilling to address the threat will attack be authorized, which presupposes that the nature of the target is determined to be sufficiently significant to warrant a non-consensual military action in that territory. I believe the Executive is best positioned to make these judgments, and that to date they have been made judiciously. I also believe that imposing a statutory scope limitation would vest terrorist belligerent operatives with the benefits of the sovereignty of the state they exploit for sanctuary. It strikes me as far more logical to continue to allow the President to address these sovereignty concerns through diplomacy, focused on the strategic interests of the nation.


Retaining the legal option of first resort killing is key to military training---breaking that paradigm collapses operational effectiveness


Geoffrey Corn 10, Professor of Law and Presidential Research Professor, South Texas College of Law, 2010, “Mixing Apples and Hand Grenades: The Logical Limit of Applying Human Rights Norms to Armed Conflict,” International Humanitarian Legal Studies 1 (2010) 52–94

Furthermore, while it might be tempting to assume that shifting from one use of force paradigm to another is a simple task, those familiar with the relationship between training and operational eectiveness know this is a highly complex process. As a result, eective training must be mission driven, which means that preparation for armed conflict must focus primarily on developing a warrior ethos derived from the armed conflict use of force paradigm: deadly force as a measure of first resort. 134 Therefore, soldiers are trained to employ deadly force against such targets, irrespective of the conduct they encounter. Furthermore, based on the relative clarity provided by the rule of military objective pursuant to which operational opponents are subject to attack with maximum lethality and all other individuals are the object of protection, it is the minimization of the harmful effects of lawful targeting of military objectives that is the focus or proportionality analysis.



Specifically, special forces conduct first-resort targeted killings outside of armed conflict zones


Sascha-Dominik Bachmann 13, Reader in International Law (University of Lincoln), 2013, “Targeted Killings: Contemporary Challenges, Risks and Opportunities,” Journal of Conflict and Security Law, doi: 10.1093/jcsl/krt007

Targeted killing has also been used by the USA in theatres of actual combat operations, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as outside these theatres of war and as part of CIA and US military run covert operations in Pakistan. The USA is using drone strikes and Special Forces there to conduct pre-emptive as well as defensive targeted killing operations against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The argument is brought forward that such operations are necessary to protect US forces and its allies in Afghanistan and to disrupt the existent terrorist infrastructure. The focus of such operations is on the so-called ‘Tribal Areas’ of Pakistan, Waziristan, where the Taliban have effectively established an autonomous sphere of influence to the exclusion of the central government in Peshawar.32 Other such covert operations have seen CIA operated drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia as well Sudan, where a lack of cooperation and/or relative capabilities of the respective governments have created areas which are outside effective state control.33

Special forces readiness is key to counter-prolif---solves nuclear war


Jim Thomas 13, Vice President and Director of Studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and Chris Dougherty is a Research Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2013, “BEYOND THE RAMPARTS THE FUTURE OF U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES,” http://www.csbaonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SOF-Report-CSBA-Final.pdf

WMD do not represent new threats to U.S. security interests, but as nascent nuclear powers grow their arsenals and aspirants like Iran continue to pursue nuclear capabilities, the threat of nuclear proliferation, as well as the potential for the actual use of nuclear weapons, will increase. Upheaval in failing or outlaw states like Libya and Syria, which possess chemical weapons and a range of missiles, highlights the possibility that in future instances of state collapse or civil war, such weapons could be used by failing regimes in an act of desperation, fall into the hands of rebel forces, or be seized by parties hostile to the United States or its interests. SOF can contribute across the spectrum of counter-WMD efforts, from stopping the acquisition of WMD by hostile states or terrorist groups to preventing their use. The global CT network SOF have built over the last decade could be repurposed over the next decade to become a global counter-WMD network, applying the same logic that it takes a network to defeat a network. Increasing the reach and density of a global counter-WMD network will require expanding security cooperation activities focused on counter-proliferation. Finally, SOF may offer the most viable strategic option for deposing WMD-armed regimes through UW campaigns should the need arise.






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