Advocating for the murder of civilians, as Glenn Reynolds did in the Bush years and Rick Santorum is doing now is clearly sick. But actually perpetrating these attacks is criminal, whether it’s being done by the US, Israel, or some non-state agent.
I’m not so naive as to think extra-judicial means of affecting foreign policy is new to the US or any other government. We’ve been assassinating people we don’t like for years. As bad as doing this in the context of de-stabilizing leftist governments in Central and South America during the Cold War, doing it in an era where terrorism is routinely declared as the Greatest Evil Facing Americans is worse. We are trapped in our dishonest rhetoric, staring into a mirror but seeing nothing. Rank hypocrisy is a dangerous thing when it comes to war and peace. In the same way that we must oppose the torture of prisoners not only because it is wrong, but because it removes such protections for Americans when they are prisoners of war, we should not be assassinating civilians because it is both wrong and it would be much better if this wasn’t represented as an appropriate policy choice for other governments of the world when it comes to Americans!
I’ll make recourse to one more America-privileging argument before I close. One of the biggest challenges from progressives against the Bush administration was that policies like lying us into war in Iraq, killing countless civilians in Afghanistan, or kidnapping, torturing and detaining innocent people without due process were policies which make America and Americans less safe. The Bush administration’s persecution of a War on Terrorism made America less popular in the Muslim world, created terrorists with every misplaced bomb, and alienated us from our allies around the globe. In the same way, a policy of assassinating civilians in another country inherently makes America less safe, as it could make American civilians and government officials similar targets to assassination. Why would anyone support policies which, separate from any moral assessment, make us less safe?
Killing civilians is wrong. Always. This really isn’t hard, people.