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Operation Geronimo: The Legality of Osama’s Killing

Introduction

The elimination of international terror threats is an important security concern for most democracies across the world. The purposeful elimination of the Al-Qaeda leader was legal under U.S. and international law. As the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, President Obama was accorded statutory authority by the constitution to sanction operation Geronimo under the Authorization to Use Military Force Act. In addition, targeted killings are acceptable under U.S. law, and the entry of U.S. forces into Pakistan did not violate the nation’s sovereignty. The use of force against an international terror threat was legal and an act of self-defense in view of the fact that Osama Bin Laden posed a serious threat to the United States.

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The Legality of Osama’s Killing

The President and the officials who played a critical role in Bin Laden’s elimination had domestic statutory authorization. The Reagan administration orchestrated the expansion of specific responsibilities and powers in American intelligence agencies. Executive Order 12333, which was passed in 1981, set the tone for President Obama’s mission to cripple one of the world’s most prolific terror organizations (Lee et al., 2019). It facilitated inter-agency corporation and the exchange of vital intelligence, which ensured the mission’s success. It is vital to note that while some sections of the Executive Order prohibit assassinations, the killing of Bin Laden must be assessed as a military decision in an ongoing conflict between America and Al-Qaeda. As such, the order does not stop the U.S. armed forces from killing leaders from opposing parties. In addition, the rule against assassination was re-interpreted, and exceptions were made for individuals classified as terror threats.

The Reagan administration’s Executive Order against assassinations does not apply in the execution of operation Geronimo because assassinations are different from targeted killings. The elimination of Osama Bin Laden did not meet the criteria for an assassination. For instance, there was an ongoing military conflict, the individual in question had taken up arms on several occasions, and there was no possible chance of arrest. In addition, the decision to kill the Al-Qaeda leader was made by senior government officials. It is vital to note that the President’s order was acceptable under international law as a permissible act of self-defense in view of the fact that Osama Bin Laden had sworn to orchestrate additional attacks against the United States.

Osama Bin Laden posed a serious security threat to the United States. The constitution grants the President the power to plan and execute a targeted individual that threatens the nation’s security. Article 2, section 2 allowed President Obama to use lethal force in the execution of operation Geronimo (Lee et al., 2019). Therefore, the head of state had the domestic statutory power to plan and authorize the raid. The legal framework supported the President’s actions which were intended to protect America from a serious threat. Therefore, the decision to eliminate the head of Al-Qaeda was supported by the law.

The Use of Military Force

The severity of terror attacks against the United States prompted the government to take action. President George W. Bush oversaw the passing of the Authorization to Use Military Force Act (AUMF) which allowed the President to use necessary force against individuals who participated in the September 11th attacks (Weed, 2017). The order gives the head of state the power to unilaterally target specific individuals connected to the attacks. The premise behind the law is the fact that acts of violence committed against the U.S. pose significant national security threats. It is vital to note that Congress expanded the scope of the law, in effect expanding the President’s power. Therefore, there are no limits on the President’s capacity to determine a terrorist threat, the degree of military force he can enforce, and the method he can apply in response to the threat. The AUMF allowed President Obama to use all available military resources when executing the plan to invade Osama’s compound in Pakistan.

The law allows for targeted killings for a variety of reasons. The precision associated with targeting individuals eliminates the need for war and reducing the number of casualties in the conflict. In addition, in the context of contemporary warfare, where the conflicts are limitless, targeting a specific individual eliminates collateral damage (Weed, 2017). Most of the modern world is keen to eliminate terror threats, and Al-Qaida posed a global threat. Taking opportunities when they arise is critical, especially when the result could lead to the elimination of one of the world’s most wanted men. It is vital to note that the struggle with Al-Qaeda is complex in view of the fact that a network rather than a nation is involved in the conflict. Therefore, the aggressors do not reside in a specific location, and they blend with the population.

The Pakistan Debacle

The military raid was conducted from a base in neighboring Pakistan. It should be noted that the President transferred control of the military team to the Central Intelligence Agency. This was a critical move in view of the fact that the civilian-based agency could oversee the operation, give that the U.S. was not at war with Pakistan. Therefore, the U.S. avoided violating Pakistan’s sovereignty by sending the military to a non-war zone area to eliminate a specific target. It should be noted, however, that Pakistan insists that the U.S. violated its sovereignty. The nation has cited the U.N. charter, which criminalizes a state’s use of force against another. However, there are particular exceptions to the rule governing entry into foreign territory. First, the use of force is allowed when both states consent to joint military action. Secondly, it is allowed in the event the use of force is deemed as self-defense when responding to a threat the host nation is unwilling to address. The latter justifies America’s actions and avoids the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.

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Conclusion

President Obama had the legal authority to orchestrate the operation intended to eliminate one of the nation’s biggest threats. The American government had domestic statutory authorization to plan and execute operation Geronimo. The expanded powers accorded to local intelligence agencies allowed the sharing of vital information that made the operation a success. The legal framework within which the elimination of the terror threat was conducted allowed the use of lethal force. It is vital to note that the Authorization to Use Military Force Act allowed the President to target individuals involved in the devastating events of September 11th. Finally, Pakistan’s sovereignty was not violated by the United States because it acted in self-defense against a terrorist who threatened its security. The United States acted in the best interest of its people by adhering to both domestic and international law.

References

Lee, D., Perlin, P., & Schottenfeld, J. (2019). Gathering intelligence: Drifting meaning and the modern surveillance apparatus. Journal of National Security Law and Policy, 10(1), 77–124.

Weed, M. (2017). A new authorization for use of military force against the Islamic State: Issues and proposals. In Congressional Research Service.

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StudyCorgi. (2023) 'Operation Geronimo: The Legality of Osama’s Killing'. 24 January.

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