US targeted killing, secrecy, and the erosion of the assassination norm

Banka, Andris (2017). US targeted killing, secrecy, and the erosion of the assassination norm. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The objective of this thesis is twofold. First, by employing the norm ‘life’ and ‘death’ cycles grounded in constructivist scholarship, the research aims at determining to what extent the domestic norm against assassination in the United States has been weakened in the light of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the advent of new technologies, namely Predator drones. To that end, the study conceptualizes the norm and provides a historical look of targeted killings as a foreign policy tool. It traces and evaluates normative assumptions about assassination as a tool of state policy from the 1970s to the end phases of Barack Obama presidency, concluding that there has been substantial erosion to this normative prohibition. Secondly, the presented thesis also attempts to make a more theoretical contribution by observing mechanisms by which the normative change transpired, demonstrating that in the case of targeted drone strikes, the government relied on quasi-secrecy in order to avoid overt justification. The study concludes that there is a strong link between government initiated quasi-secrecy – a tool that was applied deliberately and strategically, and successful legitimization of a practice that otherwise might have appeared highly controversial.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Government and Society, Department of Political Science and International Studies
Funders: Other
Other Funders: The University of Birmingham
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JK Political institutions (United States)
J Political Science > JZ International relations


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