Enemies Known and Unknown

Title:                     Enemies Known and Unknown

Author: Jack McDonald

McDonald, Jack (2017). Enemies Known and Unknown: Targeted Killings in America’s Transnational Wars. London: C. Hurst & Co.

OCLC:                   987984365

KZ6373.2 .M33 2017


Date Posted:      July 5, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

President Obama was elected on an anti-war platform, yet targeted killings increased under his command of the “War on Terror.” The US sees itself as upholding the rule of international law and spreading democracy, yet such targeted killings have been widely decried as extra-judicial violations of human rights. This book examines these paradoxes, arguing that they are partially explained by the application of existing legal standards to trans-national wars.

Critics argue that the kind of war the US claims to be waging—transnational armed conflict—doesn’t actually exist. McDonald analyzes the concept of transnational war and the legal interpretations that underpin it, and argues that the Obama administration’s adherence to the rule of law produces a status quo of violence that is in some ways more disturbing than the excesses of the Bush administration.

America’s interpretations of sovereignty and international law shape and constitute war itself, with lethal consequences for the named and anonymous persons that it unilaterally defines as participants. McDonald’s analysis helps us understand the social and legal construction of legitimate violence in warfare, and the relationship between legal opinions formed in US government departments and acts of violence half a world away.

[1] Reviewed in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 3, Winter 2016-17, pp. 139=140).

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