I'll admit it: Arguing against awful American foreign policy proposals can get tiresome after a while. A person can only explain how awful an idea bombing Iran is so many times without it getting old. Which is why I'm glad that Charli Carpenter has brought a new, equally horrendous proposition: assassinating Robert Mugabe.
Carpenter references a general ethical argument in favor of international assassination (I love the academy sometimes), which posits that the norm against such actions protects the guiltiest civilians while leading to wars that tend to kill more innocent ones. True enough, but, as Carpenter notes, the assassination of an African head of state in 1994 didn't end too well. Given the state Zimbabwe is in right now, the prospect of a Mugabe assassination leading to a Morgan Tsvangiri-led model state seems decidedly less likely than an exacerbation of the current mayhem.
But even if killing Mugabe did result in a relatively stable Tsvangiri administration it would set a highly undesirable precedent in the process. While I don't think anyone would mourn Mugabe's passing, the history of American-assisted regime change -- from the toppling of Arbenz in Guatemala, to Mosaddeq in Iran, to Allende in Chile -- is far from praiseworthy. Potentially disastrous future assassination attempts could be justified on the premise that if such a policy was effective in Zimbabwe, it should be tried in country X.
An assassination would also harm future efforts to press for human rights in Africa. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, for example, could portray attempts to stop the genocide in Darfur as yet another American attempt to meddle in African affairs, just like their assassination of Mugabe. After Iraq, I wouldn't blame the African public for not giving American protestations of benevolence the benefit of the doubt.
I definitely understand the impulse to "do something," given how awful the situation in Zimbabwe is getting. But killing Mugabe isn't the right "something".