Assassinating Radical Mullahs And Iranian Atomic Scientists Isn’t A Bad Idea

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit caught some flack for saying this,

“We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and iranian atomic scientists, supporting the simmering insurgencies within Iran, putting the mullahs’ expat business interests out of business, etc. Basically, stepping on the Iranians’ toes hard enough to make them reconsider their not-so-covert war against us in Iraq. And we should have been doing this since the summer 2003. But as far as I can tell, we’ve done nothing along these lines.”

Personally, I wouldn’t have the slightest qualms about assassinating Iranians. After all, they’re aiding terrorists in Iraq who are killing our troops, which is an act of war, so killing them certainly shouldn’t be out of bounds.

As far as killing scientists go, there are only two questions that matter: #1) Will it set back their nuclear program and #2) Can our assassins keep from getting caught? If the answer to both those questions is yes, we should be doing it.

Some people will find that outrageous, but they’re being silly. Certainly our prohibition on assassinations isn’t going to stop any of our enemies from trying to assassinate Americans if they can get away with it. Only the fear of getting caught and of our retaliation will do that.

Moreover, the President has the authority, right now, to pick up the phone and tell the US military to bomb every major Iranian city. He can even launch nukes if he wants. So, what sense does it make to say that the President has the authority to order attacks that will kill thousands of soldiers or civilians, but targeting individuals is beyond the pale? None.

That doesn’t mean we should order assassinations without great care. Like any arrow in the quiver of warfare, using it can have momentous consequences. But, given that Iran is a threat to the United States that’s targeting our soldiers in Iraq, every option for dealing with them short of nuclear warfare, including assassination, should be on the table.

Update #1: I edited the original post because it’s debatable whether the ban on assassinations applies now, since it’s during war time and also because it looks likely that Bush could change the rule via executive order.

“In 1981, President Reagan, through Executive Order 12333, reiterated the assassination prohibition. Reagan was the last president to address the topic of political assassination. Because no subsequent executive order or piece of legislation has repealed the prohibition, it remains in effect.

The ban, however, did not prevent the Reagan administration from dropping bombs on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s home in 1986 in retaliation for the bombing of a Berlin discotheque frequented by U.S. troops.

…According to an October 21, 2001, Washington Post article, President Bush in September of last year signed an intelligence “finding” instructing the CIA to engage in “lethal covert operations” to destroy Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization.

White House and CIA lawyers believe that the intelligence “finding” is constitutional because the ban on political assassination does not apply to wartime. They also contend that the prohibition does not preclude the United States taking action against terrorists.”

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