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This paper addresses how kill-capture missions can be reconciled with the underlying principles of just war theory. Part I of this paper outlines the traditional just war combatant-civilian framework and the basic legal doctrines currently thought to apply to targeted killing. Part II advances a new conception of the traditional combatant-civilian framework that incorporates the third category of alternative belligerents by showing how groups such as al Qaeda are neither combatants nor non-combatants in the just war sense and thus compel the creation of a third conceptual category. Part III of the paper applies the new framework to the kill-capture mission scenario and its core tension between the duty to capture or kill while addressing concerns and weaknesses of the new framework before concluding.


This article was awarded the second place Cornell Law Library Prize for Exemplary Student Research in 2012. It was originally published in significant part in the Military Legitimacy Review (Online) at