In the latest issue of POLITICS, I have a short article that identifies six important theses with respect to targeted killing.
- Targeted killing cannot be reduced to a single governing logic. Rather, it is important to map out how it is enabled by a constellation of logics (sovereign, disciplinary, biopolitical, and control) that converge in the practices of counter-insurgency.
- Targeted killing is a form of lawfare that uses the law as a means of securing the extra-judicial killing of specific individuals. The problem is not that targeted killing violates the law from first principles. The problem is that targeted killing can work within the law, allowing for plausible--though not necessarily credible--legal justification for its commissioning.
- Targeted killing is a visual practice shaped by epistemological and aesthetic realism. It is one of the latest tactics in the history of counter-insurgency to administer compulsary visibility over populations of interest.
- Targeted killing is a form of spatial management. It draws attention to the influence of what the Royal Air Force has called 'control without occupation' as a form of territorial administration. Targeted killing also redefines everyday places that may be seen as sacred into theatres for counter-insurgency operations. Redefining places in order to permit targeted killing defiles them in ways that will have long-lasting political implications.
- Targeted killing is a symbolic form of communication. Unlike orthodox forms of assassination, targeted killing expresses value judgements regarding the political illegitimacy of specific individuals rather than their political importance.
- The resort to targeted killing in what Derek Gregory has referred to as the wars of the 'colonial present', reflects the ongoing failures of counter-insurgency and contemporary forms of geopolitical control.
These theses are serving as central provocations for the book project on targeted killing that I am contining to write. In some cases, entire chapters are being dedicated to exploring individual theses (e.g., lawfare, spatial management, symbolic communication). Others are serving as thematics that run through the analysis.
Photo credit: Duncan Hall