The debate around the targeted killing of US citizens abroad by the U.S. government is still on going, but the article below by Robert Haddick is probably one of the better discussions I have read or heard on the topic. Could this be considered a new battlefield space to be exploited by the military or other organisations until legislation is passed to reign them in? Right now the U.S. government is taking full advantage of this legal limbo, and other than the efforts by the ACLU there is no hurry to more fully debate the very slippery slope that they are going down.
Aulaqi lawfare case is an example of military adaptation
The Aulaqi case is the latest, but certainly not the last, move on the adaptation chess board. The 9/11 attacks and others in Madrid, London, and elsewhere were maneuvers that bypassed Western conventional military power. The United States and some of its allies responded by attempting to bring governance to ungoverned territories where terror groups found sanctuary. Terror groups have in turn defended their sanctuaries by making deals with the locals and by displacing to new areas that the U.S., for either political or intelligence reasons, finds difficulty attacking.
the U.S. government has also adapted its tactics. In the future it will strive mightily to avoid interventions involving the large-scale use of general purpose ground forces. Covert action, raids, and proxy battles will be preferred. Here “lawfare” has left its mark. In recent years the U.S. government has acquired few new terrorism prisoners. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s interventions into Guantanamo, targeted killing or custody by foreign governments are now the only options the U.S. government employs (prisoners the U.S. holds at Bagram or elsewhere in Afghanistan will surely go over to the Afghan government).
Having found a sanctuary where he is nearly impossible to apprehend, the Obama administration appears content to simply kill Aulaqi with a missile. The ACLU and the CCR fear the bottom of a steep slippery slope where a U.S. president is ordering Predator hits against any U.S. citizen anywhere for any reason without legal restraint. These groups want a court to define the “recognized war zone” (Afghanistan in, Yemen not in) and to apply judicial process to the president’s war powers outside that zone. Adversaries like Aulaqi are not limited to the ACLU's view of the war zone; these adversaries would obviously take advantage of such a definitional system to establish new sanctuaries.
With techniques such as major combat operations and large ground force counterinsurgency campaigns in decline, covert action, counterterrorism raiding, and proxy wars will be in ascendance.
But as we have seen many times before in history, covert action, counterterrorism raiding, and proxy wars are vulnerable to legal and political attack, resulting in new opportunities for adversary adaptation. The adaptation chess match goes on.Read more at smallwarsjournal.com