Targeted killings: Does drone warfare violate international law?

Rebecca Perlman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Targeted killing has been heralded as one of the most effective methods for reducing the terrorist threat in the Middle East, yet its legality remains a point of controversy. At issue is the question of whether the United States is, or even can be, at war with al-Qaeda, as a state's recourse to violence is severely restricted under international law in the absence of such a war. This paper analyzes the three main frameworks under which America's lethal actions have been evaluated: law enforcement, armed conflict, and self-defense. It concludes that while the United States has a legitimate claim to self-defense against these terrorist networks, targeted killing as currently practiced by the Obama administration cannot be justified under international law.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-87
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Public and International Affairs
StatePublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Political Science and International Relations


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