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Bin Laden’s targeted killing and emerging norms

Critical Studies on TerrorismJournal abstract

This article illustrates how the well-known norm life cycle model has been under-utilised for understanding global political behaviour. The model has generally been applied to norms advancing human rights or prohibiting certain behaviour. This article uses the norm life cycle, modified to account for norm fluidity, to examine a practice which enables the state to pursue its security interests, at times by violating human rights. Specifically, this study explores variation in global responses to targeted killings, with Osama bin Laden’s death serving as a focal point. These reactions generally range from condemnation of targeted killings occurring before his death, to widespread acceptance of his death, to subsequent efforts to regulate the practice. This article concludes that this variation could be understood as consistent with the initial stages of the norm life cycle. Through this analysis, the article demonstrates how the norm life cycle model can helpfully shed light on very diverse political behaviour.