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‘Killing norms softly’: US targeted killing, quasi-secrecy and the assassination ban

Center for Foreign Policy and Peace Research, Peace Talk : Young Scholar Series
International Relations Research Seminar Series

Dr. Andris Banka
Date&Time: 24.11.2017, Friday, 15.30
Room: A130

How does a once-forbidden practice become normal, legitimate, even routine? More specifically, how can those in government who desire this outcome make it so? These questions are posed in the context of a particular case: the programme of targeted killing conceived and executed by the United States under the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In surveying general theory of how shifts in norms are accomplished by political actors, the article draws attention to the idea that achieving a stable new normative settlement requires direct public advocacy in support of an innovative practice. Using US targeted killing as a detailed case in support, the presented work proposes a contrary analysis: that official secrecy, in a strategically partial form that is termed ‘quasi-secrecy’, can play an instrumental role in the normalisation of potentially controversial shifts in practice.