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Drones and the Future of Armed ConflictEthical, Legal, and Strategic Implications$
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David Cortright, Rachel Fairhurst, and Kristen Wall

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226258058

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226258195.001.0001

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Targeted Killings and Secret Law

Targeted Killings and Secret Law

Drones and the Atrophy of Political Restraints on the War Power

(p.163) Chapter Ten Targeted Killings and Secret Law
Drones and the Future of Armed Conflict

Mary Dudziak

University of Chicago Press

This chapter addresses the impact of secretive targeted killing policies on Presidential war-making authority and political accountability. It examines how secrecy affects the role of political restraints on presidential war powers by placing two events in historical context—President Obama’s decision to kill Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011, and President Nixon’s decision to bomb Cambodia in 1969. The two episodes highlight the weaknesses of legislative constraints on executive authority to use military force and reveal a pressing need for enhanced public engagement through greater democratic accountability and transparency. The Obama administration’s assertion of unilateral authority to conduct targeted killings and its unwillingness to disclose fully the legal basis for such actions limit the ability of Congress to perform its constitutional role of overseeing and approving executive war-making. This lack of accountability combines with other factors—all-volunteer armed forces, increased reliance on private contractors, and the growing use of robotic weapons—to widen the gap between the American people and public decisions to use armed force.

Keywords:   targeted killing, Obama, Nixon, Anwar al-Awlaki, Cambodia, presidential powers, oversight, accountability, congress

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