Nathan Gabriel Wood
University of Ghent
In international law and the ethics of war, there are a variety of actions which are seen as particularly problematic and presumed to be always or inherently wrong, or in need of some overwhelmingly strong justification to override the presumption against them. One of these actions is assassination, in particular, assassination of heads of state. In this essay I argue that the presumption against assassination is incorrect. In particular, I argue that if in a given scenario war is justified, then assassination of the enemy state's leader is also justified, and in fact ought to be pursued as a means short of war. I defend this position on both consequential and deontic grounds, arguing that assassination is both more discriminate than war and serves to harm only those most responsible for the situation which justifies war in the first place. I conclude by arguing that a norm of assassination, far from being a destabilizing force, as some have argued, would in fact serve to reinforce international norms of rights and respect for persons by making clear that tyrants and would-be oppressors cannot hide behind military forces or notions of sovereignty to protect themselves from judgment and retribution.
Keywords Assassination  Ethics and War  Applied Ethics
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Assassination and the Immunity Theory.Stephen Kershnar - 2005 - Philosophia 33 (1-4):129-147.
Assassination of, and Assassination of Philip, J. A. Scott.Abraham Lincoln - 1926 - Classical World: A Quarterly Journal on Antiquity 20:129.
The Assassination of Philip of Macedon and the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln.John A. Scott - 1926 - Classical World: A Quarterly Journal on Antiquity 20:129.
Reconciliation and the Two Deaths of Monsignor Romero.Rachel Hatcher - 2016 - Journal for Peace and Justice Studies 26 (1):37-59.


Added to PP index

Total views
31 ( #354,607 of 2,455,987 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
23 ( #31,594 of 2,455,987 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes