Should NATO assassinate Gadhafi?
A general view shows the damaged offices of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi after they were hit by NATO bombs in the Bab Al-Aziziya district of Tripoli on April 25, 2011 where a Libyan official said 45 people were wounded, 15 seriously. (Getty Images)
April 25th, 2011
03:42 PM ET

Should NATO assassinate Gadhafi?

Stephen Walt over at Foreign Policy debates the pros and cons of assassination, and explains why the practice might be growing increasingly acceptable to pundits and policymakers.

The prompt for Walt’s reflection was news that NATO attacked Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s compound in Tripoli.  NATO officials deny this was an attempt to kill Gadhafi, but Walt writes, “it is hard to believe that the officials responsible weren't hoping for a lucky shot….”

Citing Ward Thomas, Walt then explains how assassination receded as a tool of foreign policy:

"This shift occurred in part because great powers preferred to confine conflict to the clash of armies on the battlefield (where they had the advantage over weaker states), and partly because it helped enshrine the idea that war was conducted by states and not by individuals."

But circumstances are changing in such a way as to make assassination more palatable to great power leaders, Walt argues:

1.   “as warfare became increasingly destructive, states began to look for cheaper alternatives.”

2.   “terrorist groups routinely employ assassination against the states they oppose, and states have responded with targeted killings against suspected terrorist leaders.”

3.   “in the post-Nuremberg environment, national leaders are increasingly seen as individually responsible and morally accountable for acts undertaken at their behest.”

This is troubling, says Walt, for another three reasons:

1.   innocents may be killed along with the supposedly guilty

2.   the murder of these innocents may create yet more adversaries

3.   assassinations justify similar actions taken against U.S. leaders. Walt writes that this is the most important point:

 “Targeted assassinations of foreign despots may seem like a cheap and efficient way of solving today's problem, but we won't enjoy living in a world where foreign adversaries think attacking U.S. leaders (including the president and his inner circle) is a perfectly legitimate way of doing business.  And notice that making targeted killings more legitimate tends to level the international playing field: you don't have to be a powerful or wealthy state to organize a few hit squads and cause lots of trouble for your enemies. So even if this attempt at "decapitation" were to succeed in the short-term, the longer-term consequences may not be quite so salutary."

Do you agree? Should NATO assassinate Gadhafi?

For another interesting take on this question, check out former State Department Director of Policy Planning, Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article “Mercy Killings” from Foreign Policy in 2003 where she argues that the United Nations should issue death warrants against dangerous dictators.

Post by:
Topics: Libya • Military • NATO • Strategy

soundoff (675 Responses)
  1. Hosam

    my message to Mr. Pedro, we are not saying that you have the right to kill Gadafi, but we are part of the world and security council 1973 stated that all needed measures to be taken to protect civilians. if this crazy is continuing giving orders to kill and rape and destroy and he never lesten to the international comunity to stop this then what do you think NATO should do, should NATO wait till he kill all libyans just because you think that this is a civil war. i think you know nothing about what is going on in the world.

    May 5, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Sanja

      The story you can sells someone whose only source of information tv.I have friends in Libya and I know that most Libyans Gaddafi supports and believes that this is a war for oil.

      May 5, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
      • Hosam

        i do not know what type of people are your friends. if you have friends in libya telling you stories, let me tell you that i am libyan and i can tell you different stoories. not me or your friends, let the ocampo tell you about the stories he got and the evidences he collected . i do not think that you will say that you have dought.

        May 5, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  2. Hosam

    i can see that a lot of people in this page are against this, i think Gaddafi has paid a lot to get this defense. please gentlmen let us now the rate. is it by word or by senetence or what. it is a sham if some one write somthing because he is paid for. you all nknow that he is killing people every day. i am saying this because one of those who killed is my partner and he has nothing to do with killing, he is a very peacefull person, but Gadafi fire has no sense, it is killing every body.

    May 5, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Sanja

      A means you're rebels.Explain then why not protest like normal people do when you were against the Gaddafi regime, why did you have to take up arms? Who gave you this weapon when everyone knows that Libya had banned the import of weapons? What are the in return promised to who you funded?

      May 5, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
      • Hosam

        the protest was on 15/2/2011 vwey peacful but Gadafi forces did not like it in this way. They are not used to hear no. they started shooting people by anti-aircraft weapons, lot of protestors were killed in all cities of libya, protesters were in a position to protect them self, also the army went into the street and supported the protesters against the armed Gadafi forces till they let them out of all eastern part cities. this is the true story as it happened, but if you have another story from another source out of libya and you want to believe it this is your problem.

        May 5, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  3. Hosam

    when i see that a lot of supporters of Gadafi on this page are from easteren europe and specialy serbia i can know the reason whay they write this.

    May 5, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Sanja

      Former Yugoslavia, Gaddafi's support, because we have always been friends with Gadafi. We were one of the greatest powers of the world, while our democracy is and knocked on the door.Now we curse that same democracy, because thanks to her live on the edge egzistencije.I we were naive like you and we let them tomake a folse.NO repeat our mistakes.

      May 5, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  4. Hosam

    to all those who are supporting Gadafi, note that a supporter of a murder is a murder as well.

    May 5, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • srbin

      Noooo we will suport "peacful rebels" who are cuting live mans head and posted video of slotering on you tube...get lost nazzi bastards!

      May 5, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
      • Hosam

        To srbin, i can not use the language you are using so better not to comunicate with you.

        May 5, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  5. Podrska Gadafiju

    Ne podrzavam zlocine i ubistva.
    Ne podrzavam NATO militarizaciju i kolektivnu CNN paranoju.
    Podrzavam borbu za slobodu, Gadafija i libijski naod.

    May 6, 2011 at 2:29 am |
  6. Sanja

    Hosam Here's the real reason why you "help" America and Europe. THEFT CENTURY ilj war against Libya are not only Libya's oil reserves, currently estimated at 60 billion barrels, the largest in Africa and among the lowest in the world by removing the cost, no natural gas reserves are estimated at about 1,500 billion cubic meters. In the crosshairs of those who are "willing" the operation "United defender" are government investment funds, or capital that the Libyan state has invested abroad.Libyan Investment Authority (LIT) manages funds of the state investment fund estimated at around 70 billion U.S. dollars.Lajas on 20 January, reported the U.S. ambassador in Tripoli that the LIT 32 billion dollars deposited in U.S. banks. Five weeks later, 28 February, the U.S. Treasury is "freeze" the accounts. According to official statements, this is "the largest sum ever blocked in the United States," that Washington remained "as a pledge for the future of Libya." In fact these funds will serve as an injection of capital for the U.S. economy sinks deeper into debt. A few days later, the EU has "frozen" around 45 billion euros of Libyan assets.

    May 6, 2011 at 2:40 am |
    • Sanja

      Between 13. and 16 January, upset by the delay in construction of houses and buildings in cities Darna Protestants, Benghazi, Bani Valid and other cities erupted to such an extent that the protesters got into the housing units that bring together government policies. On 27 January, the government has responded to protests with an investment of 24 billion dollars, which enabled the further construction of houses if the government has responded to your requests why you went on protests?

      May 6, 2011 at 3:15 am |
  7. Why not?

    oh yeah! Kill motherfuckin' shithole!

    May 6, 2011 at 6:32 am |
  8. Pozdrav iz Sumadije

    NATO treba rasformirati, kako bi se sprecilo dalje targetiranje i ubijanje ljudi sirom sveta.
    Ziveo otpor Natou i CNN-u, ziveli Libijsci i Pukovnik Gadafi!

    May 6, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  9. Vera

    Stop Nato terror!
    Long live Gadhafi! 🙂

    May 6, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  10. Maki

    CNN kako se osecate i vi i americki gradjani posle saznanja da vam se ceo svet smeje u vezi slucaja Bin Laden? Ne ponavljajte istu glupost u slucaju Gadafija, nije inteligentno, a i duboko je nemoralno! Pozdrav iz slobodarske Srbije!

    May 7, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  11. Greetings from Italy

    US foreign policy is world mafia policy.
    No pasaran!

    May 8, 2011 at 2:44 am |
  12. People from Belgrade

    Milosevic was hero, Gadhafi also!
    Long live Gadhafi!
    All the best for Libyans! 🙂

    May 8, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  13. Elenora Sealander

    Ok so I am thinking about removing my site from Tumbler and get it to a WordPress website. I believe this is a wordpress site right? If it is, may I ask where you got the theme? Thanks a bunch!

    December 6, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  14. Venus Sunde

    While Foster is definitely an improvement over the vacuous Vincent, and the movie is slickly produced, the action seemed more haphazard than intricate like the original. I also missed the smaller quirkier touches like Bronson's little rubber ball and the whole shotglass scene. Now, THAT was cool.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:45 am |
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