NBC reported this last Friday:
The National Security Council has presented President Donald Trump with options to respond to North Korea’s nuclear program — including putting American nukes in South Korea or killing dictator Kim Jong-un…
The second option, “decapitation,” is not limited to removing the one man at the helm of the slave galley:
Another option is to target and kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and other senior leaders in charge of the country’s missiles and nuclear weapons and decision-making.
This would contradict at least three executive orders by presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan, but I don’t see why, legally speaking, they cannot all be rescinded by the current US president.
Foreign policy experts seem to be concerned about the uncertainty that would follow the removal of North Korea’s key actors. I suspect that the greatest downside would be the temptation to repeat the successful operation elsewhere.
As for the merits of decapitation compared with other invasive treatments, they must vary from case to case. If Erdogan departed this world before the upcoming referendum, the constitutional reform would not pass, provided that the man’s demise appeared more like an unfortunate twist of events than an assassination. There are other polities where removing the top would send the pyramid of state power crashing down. One only has to watch out for unintended consequences.