Targeted killings

Coming from Simon and Schuster in May, a new book by Jeremy Scahill and his team at The InterceptThe Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program.

the-assassination-complex-9781501144134_hrMajor revelations about the US government’s drone program—bestselling author Jeremy Scahill and his colleagues at the investigative website The Intercept expose stunning new details about America’s secret assassination policy.

When the US government discusses drone strikes publicly, it offers assurances that such operations are a more precise alternative to troops on the ground and are authorized only when an “imminent” threat is present and there is “near certainty” that the intended target will be killed. The implicit message on drone strikes from the Obama administration has been trust, but don’t verify.

The online magazine The Intercept exploded this secrecy when it obtained a cache of secret slides that provide a window into the inner workings of the US military’s kill/capture operations in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Whether through the use of drones, night raids, or new platforms yet to be employed, these documents show assassination to be central to US counterterrorism policy.

The classified documents reveal that Washington’s fourteen-year targeted killing campaign suffers from an overreliance on flawed signals intelligence, an apparently incalculable civilian toll, and an inability to extract potentially valuable intelligence from terror suspects. This campaign, carried out by two presidents through four presidential terms, has been deliberately obscured from the public and insulated from democratic debate. The Assassination Complex allows us to understand at last the circumstances under which the US government grants itself the right to sentence individuals to death without the established checks and balances of arrest, trial, and appeal.

The book will include original contributions from Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden.

From NYU Press in July, a collection of essays edited by Kerstin Fisk and Jennifer Ramos that connects drone warfare to the Obama administration’s doctrine of ‘preventive force’ and the tangled legal armature that surrounds it: Preventive Force: Drones, Targeted Killing, and the Transformation of Contemporary Warfare.

Preventive ForceMore so than in the past, the US is now embracing the logic of preventive force: using military force to counter potential threats around the globe before they have fully materialized. While popular with individuals who seek to avoid too many “boots on the ground,” preventive force is controversial because of its potential for unnecessary collateral damage. Who decides what threats are ‘imminent’? Is there an international legal basis to kill or harm individuals who have a connection to that threat? Do the benefits of preventive force justify the costs? And, perhaps most importantly, is the US setting a dangerous international precedent?

In Preventive Force, editors Kerstin Fisk and Jennifer Ramos bring together legal scholars, political scientists, international relations scholars, and prominent defense specialists to examine these questions, whether in the context of full-scale preventive war or preventive drone strikes. In particular, the volume highlights preventive drones strikes, as they mark a complete transformation of how the US understands international norms regarding the use of force, and could potentially lead to a ‘slippery slope’ for the US and other nations in terms of engaging in preventive warfare as a matter of course. A comprehensive resource that speaks to the contours of preventive force as a security strategy as well as to the practical, legal, and ethical considerations of its implementation, Preventive Force is a useful guide for political scientists, international relations scholars, and policymakers who seek a thorough and current overview of this essential topic.

Contents are listed here.

That same month comes the book I most want to read – but the eye-popping price from Routledge makes me wonder whether some mega-publishers see books as anything other than commodities.  It’s Kyle Grayson‘s Cultural Politics of Targeted Killing: On Drones, Counter-Insurgency, and Violence (hardcover only: madness).

GRAYSON Cultural politics of targeted killingThe deployment of remotely piloted air platforms (RPAs) – or drones – has become a defining feature of contemporary counter-insurgency operations. Scholarly analysis and public debate has primarily focused on two issues: the legality of targeted killing and whether the practice is effective at disrupting insurgency networks, and the intensive media and activist scrutiny of the policy processes through which targeted killing decisions have been made. While contributing to these ongoing discussions, this book aims to determine how targeted killing has become possible in contemporary counter-insurgency operations undertaken by liberal regimes.

Each chapter is oriented around a problematisation that has shaped the cultural politics of the targeted killing assemblage. Grayson argues that in order to understand how specific forms of violence become prevalent, it is important to determine how problematisations that enable them are shaped by a politico-cultural system in which culture operates in conjunction with technological, economic, governmental, and geostrategic elements. The book also demonstrates that the actors involved – what they may be attempting to achieve through the deployment of this form of violence, how they attempt to achieve it, and where they attempt to achieve it – are also shaped by culture.

The book demonstrates how the current social relations prevalent in liberal societies contain the potential for targeted killing as a normal rather than extraordinary practice.

Contents:

Chapter One: The Cultural Politics of the Targeted Killing Assemblage

Chapter Two: Beyond the Exception: The Legal Problematisation of Targeted Killing

Chapter Three: The Politics of Targeted Killing

Chapter Four: Science, Capitalism, and the RPA

Chapter Five: The Aesthetic Subjects of Targeted Killing

Chapter Six: The Quotidian Geopolitics of Targeted Killing Strikes

Chapter Seven: Concluding Remarks on the Cultural Politics of Targeted Killing

(Amazon says July, but the publisher says ‘2017’ so perhaps somebody in Taylor & Francis’s counting-house might have a serious think between now and publication; they clearly take ‘making a killing’ all too seriously).

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