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Death by Reinterpretation: Dynamics of Norm Contestation and the US Ban on Assassination in the Reagan Years

Luca Trenta Orcid Logo

Journal of Global Security Studies, Volume: 6, Issue: 4

Swansea University Author: Luca Trenta Orcid Logo

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DOI (Published version): 10.1093/jogss/ogab012

Abstract

Recent scholarship analyzes norm dynamics in the US context using the prohibition on assassination contained in Executive Order 12333 as the relevant norm. These studies argue that—before 9/11—the ban on assassination was largely uncontested and effectively constrained US foreign policy. In do- ing...

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Published in: Journal of Global Security Studies
ISSN: 2057-3170 2057-3189
Published: Oxford Oxford University Press (OUP) 2021
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URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa56739
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first_indexed 2021-04-28T09:35:55Z
last_indexed 2021-08-17T03:20:19Z
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spelling 2021-08-16T10:23:24.4515449 v2 56739 2021-04-26 Death by Reinterpretation: Dynamics of Norm Contestation and the US Ban on Assassination in the Reagan Years 77a2eaf23b410b1d6a38ea070f14f992 0000-0001-5681-8176 Luca Trenta Luca Trenta true false 2021-04-26 APC Recent scholarship analyzes norm dynamics in the US context using the prohibition on assassination contained in Executive Order 12333 as the relevant norm. These studies argue that—before 9/11—the ban on assassination was largely uncontested and effectively constrained US foreign policy. In do- ing so, these studies overlook the impact of the Reagan administration on the evolution of the ban. This article establishes that the Reagan administration engaged in a concerted, and largely successful, effort to undermine the ban. The article relies on scholarship on norm contestation and norm robust- ness. The analysis identifies key features of the ban as a norm, including its ambiguity and executive character. It highlights the role and power of a cluster of US officials led by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Casey. Crucially, the analysis traces the prominence of dynamics of contesta- tion of the ban in the context of unconventional warfare and counterterrorism. In line with existing scholarship, the analysis finds cases of validity contestation, meaning contestation, and applicatory contestation. Contrary to existing scholarship, however, the analysis stresses the radical nature of ac- tors’ attempts to shrink the remit of the ban through applicatory contestation. This contestation was often made superfluous by the blurring—through meaning contestation—of the expectations set by the norm. A historically grounded analysis of contestation during the Reagan years provides a better understanding of how US officials (re)shaped the ban, establishing precedents for the legal, political, and discursive conventions surrounding assassination deployed after 9/11. Journal Article Journal of Global Security Studies 6 4 Oxford University Press (OUP) Oxford 2057-3170 2057-3189 assassination, Reagan administration, norm robustness, norm contestation, CIA 1 12 2021 2021-12-01 10.1093/jogss/ogab012 COLLEGE NANME Politics, Philosophy and International Relations COLLEGE CODE APC Swansea University British Academy SG150326 2021-08-16T10:23:24.4515449 2021-04-26T17:39:03.4731430 College of Arts and Humanities Political and Cultural Studies Luca Trenta 0000-0001-5681-8176 1 56739__20626__10c8e2333d7d4399b256606acf3d362d.pdf 56739.pdf 2021-08-16T10:14:31.9826166 Output 365577 application/pdf Version of Record true © The Author(s) (2021). This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License true eng http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
title Death by Reinterpretation: Dynamics of Norm Contestation and the US Ban on Assassination in the Reagan Years
spellingShingle Death by Reinterpretation: Dynamics of Norm Contestation and the US Ban on Assassination in the Reagan Years
Luca Trenta
title_short Death by Reinterpretation: Dynamics of Norm Contestation and the US Ban on Assassination in the Reagan Years
title_full Death by Reinterpretation: Dynamics of Norm Contestation and the US Ban on Assassination in the Reagan Years
title_fullStr Death by Reinterpretation: Dynamics of Norm Contestation and the US Ban on Assassination in the Reagan Years
title_full_unstemmed Death by Reinterpretation: Dynamics of Norm Contestation and the US Ban on Assassination in the Reagan Years
title_sort Death by Reinterpretation: Dynamics of Norm Contestation and the US Ban on Assassination in the Reagan Years
author_id_str_mv 77a2eaf23b410b1d6a38ea070f14f992
author_id_fullname_str_mv 77a2eaf23b410b1d6a38ea070f14f992_***_Luca Trenta
author Luca Trenta
author2 Luca Trenta
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publishDate 2021
institution Swansea University
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2057-3189
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publisher Oxford University Press (OUP)
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department_str Political and Cultural Studies{{{_:::_}}}College of Arts and Humanities{{{_:::_}}}Political and Cultural Studies
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description Recent scholarship analyzes norm dynamics in the US context using the prohibition on assassination contained in Executive Order 12333 as the relevant norm. These studies argue that—before 9/11—the ban on assassination was largely uncontested and effectively constrained US foreign policy. In do- ing so, these studies overlook the impact of the Reagan administration on the evolution of the ban. This article establishes that the Reagan administration engaged in a concerted, and largely successful, effort to undermine the ban. The article relies on scholarship on norm contestation and norm robust- ness. The analysis identifies key features of the ban as a norm, including its ambiguity and executive character. It highlights the role and power of a cluster of US officials led by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Casey. Crucially, the analysis traces the prominence of dynamics of contesta- tion of the ban in the context of unconventional warfare and counterterrorism. In line with existing scholarship, the analysis finds cases of validity contestation, meaning contestation, and applicatory contestation. Contrary to existing scholarship, however, the analysis stresses the radical nature of ac- tors’ attempts to shrink the remit of the ban through applicatory contestation. This contestation was often made superfluous by the blurring—through meaning contestation—of the expectations set by the norm. A historically grounded analysis of contestation during the Reagan years provides a better understanding of how US officials (re)shaped the ban, establishing precedents for the legal, political, and discursive conventions surrounding assassination deployed after 9/11.
published_date 2021-12-01T04:12:29Z
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