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A death on the border

Several days ago, a middle-aged man named Nam Young-ho was shot to death while crossing the Imjin River, which divides North and South Korea.  Such stories are sadly not uncommon, but the particular facts make this case quite unusual: Nam was a South Korean trying to enter the North, and was shot by South Korean soldiers.  This killing received relatively little attention in the news (perhaps in part because it occurred on the same day as a larger tragedy in the US), but it’s hard to view it as anything other than a terrible injustice.  I’ve been racking my brains, and I can’t figure out a plausible justification.  From news reports, it sounds like the South Korean military is standing by the soldiers’ actions and no prosecution is forthcoming.  This makes the killing all the more disturbing – it was not the result of poor training or accident, but a deliberate and pernicious policy to use lethal force on anyone attempting to cross into the North.Read More »A death on the border

The double standard of objections to drone strikes against US citizens

On Monday, NBC News released a bombshell memo from the US Department of Justice justifying the killing of American citizens who are believed to be senior al-Qaida leaders. That in itself is not necessarily news – the US famously used a drone strike to kill its own citizens, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, in 2011. The memo, though, is attracting much attention in large part because it reveals that the Obama administration believes such actions are justified even if there is no intelligence of an active plot to attack the US. The target must still pose an ‘imminent’ threat, but that condition can be fulfilled so long as there is evidence the target is “personally and continually involved in planning terrorist attacks against the US.” This stretches to the breaking point the plausibility of the government’s claim that such drone strikes are acts of self-defense analogous to police killing an assailant to protect an innocent. But I’ve found a tacit assumption in the debate over this memo rather objectionable: it is more legitimate for the US government to kill a foreigner than a US citizen. This assumption is thoroughly flawed, a sort of double standard that makes many commenters recoil at the assassination of al-Awlaki and Khan but shrug off the numerous other lethal drone strikes against senior al-Qaida operatives. Still, the concerns that motivate the double standard are worth taking seriously and can help shed light on what makes the memo so disturbing.   Read More »The double standard of objections to drone strikes against US citizens