Licence to kill

Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Swansea University, Luca Trenta, and Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Nottingham, Rory Cormac, provided historical examples of assassination such as that of Osama Bin Laden while also discussing abnormal methods.

They explained why states consider assassination as a viable option, with Trenta citing political disposition, the strength and weakness of leaders as possible motives for killing.

However, the pair acknowledged the long-term ineffectiveness of killing terrorist leaders.

Cormac said, “There is very little evidence that assassinating terrorist leaders has much of a positive long-term effect.”

He continued, “Once a state goes down that route [of assassination], critics argue that it loses the moral high ground, and it starts to erode these norms of principles.”

Trenta and Cormac also analysed Britain’s history of assassination and how it differs from many of its Western counterparts.

Cormac said, “What Britain has tended to do is create conditions for killing the person they wanted rid of, without ever actually having to give an order, which creates a much bigger gap between the act [of assassination] and the state.”

Pictured left to right: Luca Trenta, Oliver Bullough, Rory Cormac. 

If you’re interested in history, also see Anita Anand talk about the patient assassin at 10 am, 2 June. If you like watching Hay Festival events digitally, please sign up to the Hay Player for more from the world’s greatest thinkers.

Picture by Sam Hardwick