1st Edition

Ethics, Law and Justifying Targeted Killings
The Obama Administration at War

ISBN 9781138588790
Published April 8, 2018 by Routledge
208 Pages

USD $49.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

This book examines the normative debates around the American use of targeted killings.

It questions whether the Obama administration’s defence of its use of targeted killings is cohesive or hypocritical. In doing so, the book departs from the disciplinary purpose of international law, constitutional law and the just war tradition and instead examines discipline-specific defences of targeted killings to identify their requisite normative principles in order to compare these norms across disciplines. The methodology used in this book means that it argues that targeted killings are only defensible as acts of war, but it also highlights the normative role of accountability and responsibility in this defence. In doing so, it offers an argument that the use of ‘pattern of life’ killings by the CIA falls outside the defence offered by the Obama administration, but that this same type of targeting could be used by the military due to differing standards/mechanisms of responsibility assignment in these organisations. The book thus provides a way of investigating contemporary wars where the conduct of war lacks the traditional hallmarks of conventional warfare. Furthermore, by drawing attention to differing normative concepts that underpin competing interpretations of law and morality, it provides a way of analysing contemporary political violence in an interdisciplinary fashion without seeking to displace single disciplinary study.

This book will be of much interest to students of military studies, ethics of war, foreign policy, international security and IR.

Table of Contents


1. Justifying Targeted Killings

2. American Targeted Killings

3. War and Law Enforcement

4. International Law

5. Constitutional Protections

6. Normative Principles of War

7. Conclusion

View More



Jack McDonald is a teaching and research fellow at the Centre for Science & Security Studies, part of the Department of War Studies at King's College London, and has a PhD in War Studies.