As for what’s far fetched, recall that covert assassination by the CIA was precisely what the Church Committee revealed in the 1970s. “Among the matters investigated were attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, including Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, the Diem brothers of Vietnam, Gen. René Schneider of Chile, and President John F. Kennedy’s plan to use the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro of Cuba.”
Of course, that was then and this is now. The rules for the CIA and the White House have changed, at least when it comes to killing foreign leaders, and, under President Barack Obama, how we interrogate terrorist detainees. President Obama certainly would not approve of Rapp’s harsh interrogation techniques. The rules for killing enemy combatants are another matter; and those rules have not fundamentally changed. Rules of engagement, notwithstanding, the principal objective is still to kill them.
To do that, President Obama has dramatically escalated the use of drones and Special Forces to kill terrorists on the Afghanistan-Pakistan battlefield, and he authorized the killing of al-Awlaki in Yemen. And there is little difference, in time of war, between killing a terrorist with a missile fired from a drone or a covert operative putting a bullet in a terrorist at close range.
We are more likely to kill terrorists with a drone these days because we have the technology to do so and doing so doesn’t risk American lives. There are, nonetheless, terrorist targets that are better eliminated by people on the ground than by missiles fired from drones. It’s where the battlefield begins and ends and how you define it that determines where we draw the line between what’s acceptable and what’s not.
As for the difference between Mitch Rapp and real American covert operatives, like all fictional heroes based on people, Rapp is a composite character. He reflects the best of today’s real-life covert operatives and those throughout American history that have taken on the most dangerous and important missions in defense of our way of life. We can differ over what they should or should not do in defending us against terrorists, but we should sleep better at night knowing they are out there.
Ed Ross is the President and Chief Executive Officer of EWRoss International LLC, a company that provides global consulting services to clients in the international defense marketplace. He publishes commentary at EWRoss.com.