The Obama administration has defended its drone strikes against al-Qaeda leaders as military necessities. Now, Muamar Gadhafi’s son and three of his grandchildren were killed by a targeted air strike, where the dictator also happened to be staying. NATO defends the strike as a “military target.”
With an undeclared war, it is often difficult to target the right enemies. The common example used by proponents of “targeted killing” — the downing of Yamamoto’s plane — doesn’t fit the bill. Yamamoto was a defined military official in a defined war with clearly defined enemies. Today, a military target has become just any civilian operating as a “leader” on the other side.
By opening the door to assassinations, can we truly act outraged when our opponents practice the same tactics? I assume that an airstrike in which Obama’s or Sarkozy’s or Cameron’s family was killed would be perceived in the West as an act of unbelievable barbarity, particularly if it was discovered that the President and his family were targeted. And yet, that’s exactly what it appears the NATO airstrikes are doing in Libya.