The Corner

Whacking Kim Jong Il

A v. good & thoughtful follow-up from a reader on my whack-Kim piece

last

week: “On the subject of which sons of bitches ‘need killing’ I suggest

adopting a triple test. First, it needs to be clear, in dealing with heads

of state or government (as opposed to, say, terrorists), that only tyrants

can be marked for targeted killing. No matter how odious a democratically

elected leader is (Hugo Chavez and Jacques Chirac come to mind), it should

be beyond the pale to even consider precipitating the shuffling off of their

mortal coil. (Their voters can do the honors next election day). The same

is true of less than democratic leaders who are still a torture chamber or

two short of being full blown tyrants. Various not -so- constitutional

monarchs in the Arab world and many one-party African state dictators fall

into this category. Second, the whackee must be really dangerous. Dangerous

in the ‘clear and present danger’ sense of the word. Otherwise, targeted

killing could become a ‘default option,’ a kind of ‘diplomacy by other

means.’ This means that targeted killing would always be a question of

context and circumstance. Fidel Castro might have been dangerous enough to

’need killing’ in 1962, but today is mostly just a nuisance to the rest of

the world (though not to his own people). Third, I suggest adopting Justice

Potter Stewart’s test for pornography: ‘I know it when I see it.’ Most

people can look at a tyrant, at his record of brutality and at the danger he

poses, and instinctively know whether or not he ‘needs killing.’

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