James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, August 25, 2005

On Taking Out Chavez

Fr. Jim Tucker writes,

Chavez is a dirty quasi-Communist who talks big and insults the United States, but he's certainly not committed any acts of war against us. And until he does so, it's not right for us to talk about assassinations or war.

The whole question of our policy against assassinations does deserve to be looked at, because one bullet in an enemy dictator is a whole lot more humane and less costly than a full-scale war that slaughters pawns and leaves the king untouched, as Pat Robertson said. But it seems to me that two ethical matters need to be addressed before the American government targets the next foreign leader.

First, we need to be clear about what our policy is. If we are on record and under Presidential executive order not to engage in assassinations, then we either have to refrain from assassinations or publicly revoke the prohibition. Second, an assassination would be an act of war, and so all the just-war criteria would have to be met before assassination was resorted to. And, it seems to me, that if this is an act of war, then in a free society there should be public debate about the dangers posed by the enemy state and some Congressional authorization of a formal commencement of hostilities. The President can't just send out special-operations hit squads to off any foreigner that he determines is an enemy of the American people. Besides these ethical and democratic considerations, there is another question that comes to mind. If the American government starts sending spies to kill enemy leaders in the dead of night -- particularly if this power is exercised with a certain degree of frequency or in ambiguous cases -- , what kind of genie would we be letting out of the bottle?

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