Political Science, Department of


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A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Political Science, Under the Supervision of Professor Patrice C. McMahon and Professor Ross Miller. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2011

Copyright 2011 Matthew Alan Morehouse


This study examines the effectiveness of the United States’ targeted killing program. Specifically, do targeted killings work as an effective program for combating global terrorism? This thesis is divided into parts. The first section provides a brief introduction to targeted killings. The second part consists of an examination of targeted killings as an essentially contested concept, arguing that targeted killings can be defined in a manner consistent with the scientific enterprise. The third section contains a thorough review of the literature on targeted killings, demonstrating that there is a dearth of works investigating the actual effectiveness of targeted killings. The fourth portion outlines the methodologies chosen for this endeavor – a combination of quantitative and quantitative methodologies. The fifth part provides the descriptive and predictive results of the statistical analyses conducted in the course of this study. It is found that the statistical data provides mixed results concerning the effectiveness of targeted killings. The sixth section contains the qualitative data uncovered in the authors’ research. The qualitative information provides strong support to the view that targeted killings are an effective method for combating terrorist groups. The final chapter consists of an analysis of the results, thoughts on future research and methodologies, and policy recommendations.