In the NYRB, Ken Roth reviews Rosa Brooks: "The decision to treat 9/11 as an act of war rather than a horrible crime was a policy choice." ... "In war, opposing combatants can be targeted and killed by virtue of their status as combatants, without regard to their conduct at that moment. Captured combatants in wars between countries can be detained without charge or trial until the end of the armed conflict. In peacetime, by contrast, law enforcement rules allow the use of lethal force only as a last resort to stop an imminent lethal threat, and detentions generally can be sustained only after charges have been filed and a trial has taken place."
Including this bit: "US soldiers now undertake public health programs, agricultural reform efforts, small business development projects, and training in the rule of law. This expanding mandate has enabled the Pentagon to dramatically increase its budget ... even as austerity eviscerates the budgets of the agencies that traditionally carry out these tasks, such as the State Department and USAID."
And: "problems arise when drones are used in places where the US has not claimed to be at war, such as Yemen or Somalia. If law-enforcement standards are applied in such places, US security officials would still be permitted to use lethal force, but only in exceptional circumstances—when it is the only feasible way to avoid an imminent threat to life. ... Obama accepted these law-enforcement standards for such situations, stating that the United States would use lethal force only against “terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people,” and even then, only if capture is not possible and there is “near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.” ... Part of the problem seems to stem from the US government’s elastic definition of a continuing “imminent” threat; its definition allows such a threat to be established regardless of how soon an alleged planned attack might take place. ... It is as if the law-enforcement rules articulated by Obama have reverted back to war rules."
"To make matters worse, even though it is unclear how the US government even makes such determinations, it sometimes seems to treat mere association with a suspect as evidence of membership in a terrorist group. That expands the range of targetable people still further." ...
"Unintended civilian casualties are not the issue. Regardless of the rules applied, the US government has a strong incentive to avoid such casualties. ... Rather, the central issue is who can be deliberately targeted. Who is the intended victim, and on what grounds?"