Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Andrew Altman

Second Advisor

George Rainbolt

Third Advisor

Andrew I. Cohen


Modern warfare in general, and targeted killing (TK) in particular, challenge conventional legal paradigms. While some contend that targeted killing is a clear violation of law, others argue that it is the law that should adapt to its modern context. In this thesis, I argue in favor of the latter. I will first explain the two dominant paradigms through which one can interpret TK: law enforcement versus armed conflict, going on to argue that an armed conflict paradigm can be legitimately invoked. In sections IV and V, I examine the rights and status of targeted individuals in modern conflict. I will then explore Jeremy Waldron’s objection to TK—that its potential for abuse outweighs its utility. I conclude by arguing that TK, like all warfare, is justified only by the unacceptability of its alternative, and that the justification of all warfare abides under the same pragmatic presumption.