On Government Sanctioned Assassinations

Bruce Schneier has a link to an interesting piece [New York Times so you might hit the pay wall and be unable to read the article] talking about Obama’s recent authorization to kill an American citizen. The article doesn’t get into the politics so much as explain why targeted killings of terrorist organization leaders is a bad idea:

Particularly ominous are Jordan’s findings about groups that, like Al Qaeda and the Taliban, are religious. The chances that a religious terrorist group will collapse in the wake of a decapitation strategy are 17 percent. Of course, that’s better than zero, but it turns out that the chances of such a group fading away when there’s no decapitation are 33 percent. In other words, killing leaders of a religious terrorist group seems to increase the group’s chances of survival from 67 percent to 83 percent.

The data is referenced from this study [PDF]. Needless to say killing the leader more often than not increases the likelihood of the organization surviving. That makes sense considering these organizations believe they are being targeted by their enemies and seeing a demonstration of such is going to strengthen their resolve.