This afternoon The Conversation published a column from me on targeted killing, arising from the news today that a US drone strike likely resulted in the death of Mohammed Emwazi. The column in full is here, and here’s the conclusion as a taster:
Legal debate serves another function here. Presenting targeted killing as something in relation to which there is at least an arguable legal justification enables political leaders to get out of answering harder, moral questions. By using technology to minimise the risk to “our” soldiers and “eliminate threats”, political leaders can avoid the moral and political pressure that comes from committing “boots on the ground” so that difficult questions may go unasked.
Of course, it is important for us to question the legality of what our governments do; to ensure that they remain within the law. But in the case of targeting killings there is a risk that the legal debate is so intense that the necessary moral debate does not take place.
Targeted killings such as this one are done in “our” name; to protect “our” security. And so, we must ask ourselves —- and our leaders —- these hard questions, and we must welcome rather than condemn interventions from politicians ([such as Jeremy Corbyn](http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jihadi-john-dead-jeremy-corbyn-says-far-better-if-militant-had-been-in-tried-in-court-rather-than-a6733316.html)) who question the decision to kill rather than prosecute suspected terrorists.
As a democratically organised community operating under the rule of law, are we willing to accept the proposition that we can kill people (including our own citizens) abroad because of what we believe we know they did — or may do in the future? And, if so, can we accept the implications of this kind of prevention-oriented logic, legal or not?