"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Killing Americans Abroad

As has been reported elsewhere, Anwar al-Awlaqi, the Yemeni-American cleric who was supposedly the inspiration for the Ft. Hood massacre, has been placed on a CIA assassination list, making him the first citizen to have that mark. 

I am not a legal scholar, so I am unsure as to the legality of this.  I know that I would be horrified to find out that the CIA was killing citizens inside America, but for someone overseas who is obviously a part of designated enemy...well, that seems to be within their field of operation.

What I do want to say, though, is that we have to be careful not to let al-Awlaqi become bigger then he is.  As Greg argued a few times in Waq al-Waq, this is not someone who is extremely important to AQAP.  I think it is safe to say that his importance has grown as his notoriety has increased, and this is something that will increase it further.  His role in the traumatizing murder of soldiers is something that sticks heavily in our psyche, and it would provide an immediate gratification to see him taken him out.  But there are people in Yemen who threaten us far more than a man whose importance only comes by dint of his language skills and heritage.   An emotionally-satisfying kill is great in the movies, but not if it comes at the expense of much more important targets. 


  1. But if he is important to AQAP even as a symbol only, and the symbol is "liquidated," doesn't that hold importance, too? Of course this should come, as you said, at the expense of more important targets, (great word choice, by the way) but his survival becomes an important symbol of defiance.

  2. Honestly, I don't think it matters to AQAP one way or the other. That we tried to kill him before and failed was good for them, but we should let him slip back into anonymity. Now, every day we don't get him becomes a victory for them. He is a symbol of our making. Your point is still valid, then, because he still is a symbol. But I think this is a case where we can just shut up about it and not really make an attempt to do anything. Let him know he can't surface, but don't go digging around for him either.