Targeted Killings, Law and Counter-Terrorism Effectiveness: Does Fair Play Pay Off?, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Targeted Killings, Law and Counter-Terrorism Effectiveness

Does Fair Play Pay Off?, 1st Edition

By Ophir Falk


176 pages | 6 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780367339265
pub: 2020-07-09
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This book examines the permissibility and effectiveness of targeted killing in campaigns against terror.

Targeted killing has become a primary counterterrorism measure used by several countries in their confrontation with lethal threats. The practice has been extensively used by the US in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza. Several studies have already explored the difficult balance between achieving security while maintaining the liberties and rights of a country’s civilians. This book goes a step further by seeking to examine whether maintaining those liberties by complying with legal standards and minimizing unintended deaths can be more effective for national security.

Using targeted killing applied by Israel, in particular, as well as the United States during the first decade of the 21st century as case studies, this book explores that question and ultimately assesses whether compliance with legal standards can strengthen a state in its campaign against terrorism and thus provide stronger security. The book focuses on civilian-related criteria, hypothesizing that minimizing civilian casualties will maximize effectiveness in an asymmetric war setting. The conclusions are not limited to a specific tactic or theater, and if adopted might have far-reaching implications for how asymmetric warfare is strategized.

This book will be of much interest to students of counter-terrorism, law, Middle Eastern studies, and security studies.


'Ophir Falk's book bridges the gap between legality and efficiency; between academia and practice; regarding the use of targeted killings against terrorists. He provides an excellent review of the effectiveness of targeted killings to mitigate suicide terrorism in Israel during the first decade of the 21st century. Dr. Falk's book should be read by all decision-makers, military leaders, experts and students who seek to better understand the use of targeted killings in countering terrorism.'-- Professor Boaz Ganor, Founder and Executive Director of The International Institute for Counter-Terrorism and Ronald S. Lauder Chair, The Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Israel

'In this thoughtful and well researched manuscript, Falk provides an important service to policy makers of democratic nations who are called upon to combat terrorism while preserving freedom. As an attorney and former counterterrorism combatant, I find this book to be a beacon of light amidst the moral fog that at times engulfs leaders when faced with the paramount task of confronting terrorism.'--Joseph Asch, Former Head of Criminal Division at Israel's State Attorney's Office and Major (Res.) in the IDF's elite naval commandos (S-13).

‘Ophir Falk takes on the vexing topic of the effectiveness of targeted killing as a military tactic, employed by democracies against terrorists, specifically in the Israeli setting in the early 21st century. His analysis is presented to the reader within the construct of the Law of Armed Conflict and Just War Theory […] Technology is predictably and quickly advancing; tools and techniques available to terrorists, and the governments who face off against them, are correspondingly more widely available and increasing in their scope and lethality. Dr. Falk's thinking on the profound issue of whether, how, and when it may be permissible to take life in the counter-terrorism setting -- and, if so, on its effectiveness -- is thus more important now than ever before.’-- Karl Wagner, Founder and CEO of Eastern Sky Technologies and former Senior National Security Executive (ret.)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Permissibility of Targeted Killing

3. Measuring the Effectiveness of Israel's 'Targeted Killing' Campaign

4. Unintended Deaths and Targeted Killings Effectiveness

5. Integrated Discussion & Conclusions

6. Annex

About the Author

Ophir Falk is a practising lawyer and a research fellow at the International Institute of Counter Terrorism (ICT) in Herzliya, Israel and has a PhD from Haifa University.

About the Series

Contemporary Security Studies

This series focuses on new research across the spectrum of international peace and security, in an era where each year throws up multiple examples of conflicts that present new security challenges in the world around them.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Middle East / Israel
HISTORY / Military / General
HISTORY / Military / Strategy
HISTORY / Military / Afghan War (2001-)
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / International Security
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Terrorism