Assessing the Efficacy of Capital Punishment in the War on Terror Through the Lenses of History, Law, and Theory   [open pdf - 373KB]

From the thesis abstract: "Prior to President Obama halting all ongoing military commissions, the United States charged six Guantanamo Bay prisoners with capital crimes. Further, his latest policy directive for new military commission rules has not excluded the death penalty as punishment. Application of the death penalty for convicted terrorists will draw worldwide attention. President Obama's decision to approve or disapprove a capital sentence has both domestic and international implications. Not only will application of the death penalty draw international attention, and possibly international ire, it will prove problematic because of competing issues related to strategic communication, international expectations, domestic desires, and the overall effort in fighting global terrorism. In President Obama's early days in office, he has put great emphasis on the American identity in the international arena and on using the American identity to build relationships with other nations. Therefore, the constructivist approach to international relations is an effective tool for evaluating President Obama's decisions during the punishment phase of military commissions. Using constructivism to frame his overarching decision, an examination of history, identity, law, and strategic communication help complete the examination of his strategic outlook. This paper provides a description of the international relations approach of constructivism as the theoretical basis for the author's evaluation. The application of this approach requires a combination of history, philosophy, and law. In essence, this approach presupposes that American national identity, as manifested through President Obama and his administration, will explain the decision whether or not to use capital punishment against terrorists and of the potential positive and negative consequences of this decision based on group identities. Because the factors that define, shape and describe a national identity are nearly infinite, this paper focuses on a broader historical, legal, and cultural analysis to measure the efficacy of using capital punishment against convicted terrorists. The author's analysis leads her to conclude that President Obama will approve a capital sentence handed down to convicted terrorists from a military commission."

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