N.T. Wright comments on the killing of Osama bin Laden over at Ruth Gledhill’s blog.
I hear Wright’s objections and I am no fan of American exceptionalism. The point I would like to make is that this is not really exceptional but typical of how governments go after terrorists. The UK and other governments spasmodically engage on seek and destroy missions in other countries where the goal is to terminate rather than capture terrorists. Israel does it all the time and they are not alone. To give an example, an SAS hit team killed three IRA members in Gibraltar in 1988. In terms of the degree of force applied, in the 1980 siege in the Iranian embassy in London all but one terrorist was shot and killed by the SAS who had explicit orders to take no prisoners! You can pursue terrorists with a Tomahawk missile or a special forces hit team, but the result is the same. It is important to remember that under the Laws of Armed Conflict that terrorists are not subject to the protection of the Genevan conventions because they do not qualify for its provision (long story, but it’s true). For this reason, the rules of engagement given to soldiers dealing with terrorists are usually different from that during conventional warfare or peace keeping operations.
There are questions of legality and morality about war, how warfare is conducted, and how Christians tackle these tough ethical issues. For all of its limitations, I still think Just War Theory is the best way to go and provides the framework for us to approach this subject.