The correct answer is: “Why should we care?”

International law, as it stands, attempts to protect the privileges and immunities of people who should not be either privileged or immune. It is, on the whole, an attempt to codify the situation as it existed prior to the Thirty Years War: “Ach, Gottfried, it’s just so damn boring around here. Let’s go start a war. Killing off peasants will liven the place up a bit.” Autocrats, dictators, and tyrants of all stripes, Governmental or private, can send their unconsidered minions off to do a bit of violence, and attackers and defenders alike end up killing off a bunch of gormless plebes, while the originators of the problem are protected from “assassination” or “targeting of leadership” according to International Law.

It ought to be the other way ’round, and as long as the notion of Constitutional amendments is floating around, I would support one obliging the Commander in Chief to do his utmost to discover the originators, planners, and inspirers of any attack on the United States and take them out first, rather than sending our goons to tangle with their goons in pointless, bloody violence.

The United States, and Western democracies in general, are well-nigh immune to reciprocal attacks. Oh, Presidents and Prime Ministers can get killed, no doubt about it — but in Western forms of Government officeholders are, to a close approximation, replaceable at will. When John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas we had a new President before nightfall, and although some of the policies of the American Government changed with the New Guy at the helm, the continuity of “the regime” was never in question in any way. Killing the President would piss everybody in the United States off, but at the end of that day there would be a President and a U. S. Government still doing business at the same stand. The same is true of the UK, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, and all the other countries of the Western world.

The same is most emphatically NOT true of our opponents. The ultimate authors of our current misfortunes can be found in two buildings, both locatable on Google Earth, with honorable mention to two others nearby the first. Taking any or all of them out would relieve the pressure on us enormously; “targeted killing” of the specific individuals presiding over those places would do as well or better, because the regimes involved revolve around those people, and (unlike with us) if reconstituted with new Supreme Leaders would end up working very differently. The same is true of Bashir al-Assad, Muammar al-Khadafi, Robert Mugabe, Little Kim, and a host of others whose regimes are deserving of the name because the kingpin is genuinely irreplaceable without major upheavals. Tyrants and dictators simply cannot have a “bench” of people prepared to leap into action if the star player sprains a frontal lobe, because if they did it would also constitute a pool of people both anxious and capable of hurrying the replacement process. Asssassinating one of them will inevitably cause major changes, where killing off a Western leader will get you disinvited to most social occasions but won’t change anything material, certainly not in the short term.

In most cases, we don’t have any severe beef with spear-carriers, grunts impressed (either sense) to do us hurt, or the ordinary householders and shopkeepers, and even when we do have a beef with them they’re unlikely to have the capability to do much, but they’re the ones who inevitably get wasted by “kinetic military action” while the planners and authors hide behind smarmy declarations of immunity under International Law. Bullshit. If a “regime” or other organization declares its intent to damage the United States or any other Western country, the management of that regime ought to be subject to change with prejudice and without notice.

If you want to end the War on Terror, take out Imam Khameini and the Council of Mullahs — a couple of 500-lb JADAMs would be plenty, with a little on-the-ground intelligence. It is very likely that Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz (minister of defence) and Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz (minister of Interior and, since 2009, second deputy prime minister) of Saudi Arabia would get the hint, but if they did not, we know where they are; it is certain that the Government of Iran would look quite different afterward. Better? Worse? For us, or for them? Who knows? More importantly, who gives a damn? We’ve tried all the “logical” avenues and all the “diplomatic” ones, to little or no avail. Time to shake the Magic 8-Ball and get a different card in the window. International Law be damned. Let’s stop wasting grunts (theirs or ours) and start targeting kingpins. It might even encourage others.