Global Politics

Bin Laden and U.S. foreign policy

(Is there any legal problem in the U.S. or internationally with a presidential candidate calling for the death of an individual at the hands of a state during the time of war?) As a matter of international war, a country can target civilians or leaders of war and that notion has been expanded to include enemies of state who are threats to national security. So the U.S. tried to bomb Saddam Hussein's palace in 1993 and we've been trying to take out Bin Laden for years. (How legally does one define what an enemy of a state is versus a leader of a nation?) The U.S. claims we are in a war against terrorism and in particular Al Qaeda and so taking out Bin Laden is a justifiable act in order to preserve national security. (And this would not be illegal under international law?) No, in U.S. law there's an executive order which says we can't assassinate people, but the president has an executive order which defies this and this doesn't apply in areas of armed conflict. The problem with the war on terrorism is that war isn't bound by geography or time so we could be talking about taking on Bin Laden in Canada or Europe. But Bin Laden can be assassinated or killed if he's within our sights. What concerns me is if the U.S. wants to regain its integrity as a country governed by the rule of law, this tough talk is not going to strengthen that position. (Why?) As we expand our war on terror outside the bounds of Afghanistan, it becomes more problematic. There could be more cases of civilians killed as we hunt Bin Laden, and that could hurt our perception globally.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

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