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International Relations On Fighting Terrorism Justly
Michael Walzer International Relations 2007; 21; 480 DOI: 10.1177/0047117807083073 The online version of this article can be found at:

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 21(4)On Fighting Terrorism Justly
Michael Walzer

This article is about the war on terror as an actual war and as police work – and then as something in between these two. The in-between space, where special forces operate, is critically important. We don’t have clear standards that apply to it, and we need to begin to think about what those standards might look like. Keywords:assassination, Elshtain, jus in bello, just war, peace, war on terror

In 2002 Jean Bethke Elshtain wrote a book (published in early 2003) that was exactly right for its moment, the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the Afghan war, and that continues today to provide intellectual and political guidance of a critically important kind. The academic and religious arguments that she criticized then – theapologies for terrorism and the refusals to accept the use of force against terrorists and their allies – still need to be addressed and criticized, and the terms of her critique are still the right ones. But standard just war theory, which Elshtain expounded and defended, and which fit the Afghan case very neatly, does not always fit the larger ‘war against terror’ as it has developed since 2002. Thiswar is sometimes real, as it was (and, unhappily, still is) in Afghanistan, but mostly it is a metaphorical war: in the realm of ideas, it is an ideological struggle; in the realm of practice, it is a long campaign by the police of our own and many other countries. Indeed, the ‘war’ is mostly police work. But it is also, sometimes, the work of Special Forces who stand somewhere between the policeand the army. The rules of engagement for police and Special Forces derive from the same moral principles that govern jus in bello, but the rules for the police are not the same as the rules for soldiers, and I am not sure that anyone knows what the rules are or should be for Special Forces. These are the issues that I want to worry about, very briefly, in what I take to be the spirit of Elshtain’sbook. Consider a case that I have often used in talking about these questions to audiences around the country: the 2002 targeted killing of a group of al-Qaeda militants traveling in a van in South Yemen by a rocket fired from an American helicopter. Had this same attack, by the same helicopter on the same van, been carried out in Afghanistan, it would have been an act of war, carried out in a warzone, unproblematic and, assuming that the militants were correctly identified, certainly justified. But had it been carried out on a street in, say, Philadelphia, we would not have thought it a just attack; we would have been horrified. In Philadelphia, it would have been necessary to stop the van and arrest the militants, provide them with a defense attorney, and

International RelationsCopyright © 2007 SAGE Publications Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and from by on480–484 2009 Singapore, Vol 21(4): October 27, Downloaded [DOI: 10.1177/0047117807083073]



bring them to trial and judgment. Philadelphia is located in a zone of peace, where there is no justification for targeted killing. Now, Yemen lies somewhere between...