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Approving and Executing the Operation Geronimo


Former President Obama was the US commander-in-chief who authorized the Geronimo operation that led to the death of Osama bin Laden – the most wanted man at the time. Various reports show a series of consultations between the National Security Council (NSC) and the president way before the strike was executed. President Obama gave executive orders for Osama bin Laden to be killed in a military operation christened Geronimo. The killing ended decade-long of a search mission to capture fugitive Bin Laden. It brought about relief to the international community and American citizens in the wake of the September 11 bombing of the Twin Towers by the Al Qaeda terrorist group. However, dissenting voices have downplayed President Obama’s active role in the execution. This paper believes that according to the American constitution, Obama had the executive authority to approve and execute operation Geronimo.

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Supporting Arguments

When the issue is put into proper perspective, there is a need to interrogate the executive decision based on domestic and international law. Such an interrogation would help understand the legality that President Obama leveraged to authorize operation Geronimo. The legality of authorizing the operation can be located in Former US President Reagan’s Executive order number 12333, which provided that no American civil servant had the right to assassinate another. However, the Order fell short of contextually defining what an assassination was (Wachtel, 2015). Additionally, After the Twin Tower bombings, the US Congress passed a resolution to authorize the use of military force, which allowed the commander-in-chief to use all appropriate and necessary force against organizations, countries, and persons considered to have planned, committed, authorized, or assisted in the September 11terrorist attacks. Under the Congress resolution, President Barrack Obama was within his rights as the US commander-in-chief to execute such orders, which were within the purview of the US domestic laws after the September 11 Twin-Tower bombings.

Questions have also arisen on how the operation was executed and if it complied with the laws that govern armed conflict compared to military necessity, discrimination, and proportionality. In the first instance, the operation complied with military necessity because it was a response necessitated by Bin Laden’s September 11 terrorist attack that also posed a threat to the lives of American citizens and the international community through terrorism. On proportionality, one can argue that the force used in operation was proportional to the situation then. The threat that Bin Laden posed to the security agents who raided his hideout required the actions carried out by the team because he was armed and ready to strike. Finally, the was no issue of discrimination in the operation because the people who died in the mission were not targets of the operations but should be regarded as collateral damage. Therefore, operation Geronimo was a legit military exercise that fully complied with armed conflict laws.

There are still some quarters that are still doubtful whether President Obama’s executive orders in authorizing the operation complied with international laws. Certain rules in International law provide a window for a country to justify the use of military force internationally as a form of self-defense, or if the United Nations Security Council has expressly authorized such a force. The US was a victim of the 9/11 attacks by Osama Bin Laden, and its actions to capture him at all costs are to be considered an aspect of self-defense to protect its people from further attacks. On the other hand, International law also provides the jus in bello rules that define the parameters of the scope and nature of the force used in such a situation (Hodgin, 2014). In this regard, America had the legal authority originating from international law to enter Pakistan and execute its operation. Therefore, allegations that the US violated Pakistani sovereignty without their involvement are baseless. Even though the UN Charter emphasizes territorial sovereignty that all nations must respect, it also creates a window where self-defense can be used to justify a breach of a country’s sovereignty when pursuing its aggressors (Hodgin, 2014). Therefore, President Obama had the legal authority to pursue Osama bin Laden into Pakistan in self-defense.


The September 11 terrorist attack by Osama Bin Laden forced America to change its tact on how it defended itself when faced with such hostilities. Congress resolved to pursue the perpetrators of the attack through legislation that gave the President the power and authority to do so. President Obama authorized the military attack on Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda after his hideout was identified. He drew his power and legal authority from the resolution passed by Congress after the 9/11 attack. However, after executing the operation, questions arose about the origins of such authorizations concerning domestic and international laws. Further questions were also posed about how the mission was carried out and compliance with the laws of armed conflicts. The paper has answered these questions with the view of maintaining that President Obama had the legal authority to order and execute operation Geronimo.


Hodgin, S. (2014). Killing Osama Bin Laden: Legal and necessary. Widener Law Review, 20(1), 1- 26.

Wachtel, H. (2015). Targeting Osama bin Laden: Examining the legality of assassination as a tool of U.S. foreign policy. Duke Law Journal, 55(677), 680-693.

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