Immanent red herrings

I’m pretty sure I wrote publicly (recently, and somewhere I can’t identify) that I now thought the killing of Qassim Suleimani was illegal because the case that there was an immanent threat had fallen through.

I should have known better. Immanent threat” was a just a bad rationale Team Trump put forward. It was bad becasue it was (a) unnecessary and (b) unprovable without compromising intelligence sources in most cases.

David French, who actually has expertise in the law of war, explains the better rationale — which he considers conclusive — in the middle portion of this Advisory Opinions podcast. Basically, it’s that we were in Iraq legally fighting terrorism, Suleimani’s Iranian proxy terrorists had attacked our embassy three days earlier, Suleimani had entered Iraq to meet with his proxy terrorists, and command and control figures like Suleimani are fair game in such circumstances.

French’s colleague Sarah Isgur agrees on the facts but thinks those facts per se describe an immanent threat.

(None of this is meant to imply that the killing was wise.)

January 16, 2020

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