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Remote killing? Remoteness, covertness, and the US government’s involvement in assassination
Defence Studies, Volume: 21, Issue: 4, Pages: 468 - 488
Swansea University Author: Luca Trenta
Accepted Manuscript under embargo until: 10th May 2023
The recent assassinations of General Soleimani and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh have renewed debates surrounding governments’ use of assassination. Some commentators have interpreted these episodes as an escalation in practices of ‘remote warfare.’ Recently, the literature on remote warfare has expanded to in...
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The recent assassinations of General Soleimani and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh have renewed debates surrounding governments’ use of assassination. Some commentators have interpreted these episodes as an escalation in practices of ‘remote warfare.’ Recently, the literature on remote warfare has expanded to include multiple activities at – and below – the threshold of war. From its focus on geographical distance, ‘remoteness’ now encompasses the ‘political’ distance of deployments of force. ‘Remoteness’ has blurred the line separating the methods used to deploy force and the ways – overt or covert - in which they are deployed. Having highlighted the role of covertness, this article establishes that assassination should be included in the ‘remote warfare’ canon. A study of the US government’s involvement in assassination permits us to elucidate the interplay between remoteness and covertness. The article shows that a deeper engagement with the assassination as a tool of US foreign policy provides two main advantages. First, it permits us to better historicise the ‘opacity’ and ‘political distance’ of practices associated with ‘remote warfare.’ Second, it helps unveil the origins of the legal, political, and technological infrastructures that currently sustain much of the US government’s global ‘remote wars.’
Remote warfare; covert action; assassination; US foreign policy; drones
College of Arts and Humanities