The sharp uptick in civilian casualties from U.S. military operations across the world under President Trump has alarmed human rights lawyers, who say the legal standards for targeting combatants are rapidly eroding. On this edition of the Just Security Podcast, Daphne Eviatar, Director of the Security with Human Rights program at Amnesty International, tells Managing Editor John Reed that the Trump Administration has clearly relaxed the rules the government is supposed to follow when using lethal force overseas. In short, Trump has made it “easier to kill people.”
But Eviatar says much of the blame falls on the Obama Administration, which made efforts to blur the traditional legal distinction between war zones, where the laws of war apply, and non-war zones, where a more stringent legal standard is supposed to apply. In an era of low-burning counterinsurgency and diffuse terror networks, this intermediate “gray” area encompasses many U.S. security operations overseas, opening the door for a high degree of executive discretion in who and when the military can target with lethal force.