Throughout history, people in various areas of the world have been facing diverse threats and forced to take certain actions for protection. However, some of those actions are debated by society, questioning their righteousness. One such example is operation Geronimo, which resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden and has raised conflicting discussions (Scott, 2018). Due to the US’s direct involvement, one can argue that President Obama had the legal authority to order the execution of operation Geronimo overseas.
To identify the reasons for justification of President Obama’s decision regarding Geronimo and the defense of the US nation, one needs to understand the severity of bin Laden’s activities. Years before Barack Obama took office, Osama bin Laden and his people had caused the September 11 attacks, the aftermath of which was inconceivable (Scott, 2018). Bin Laden was considered as a leader who had managed to spread multiple networks of the Al Qaeda organization to coordinate terrorist plots around the globe (Scott, 2018). The beginning of Obama’s presidency was marked by anticipations of better opportunities and racial equality, especially for Black Americans (Scott, 2018). Therefore, President Obama, who emphasized the importance of “serving one Nation,” was determined to protect people who had put trust in him (Scott, 2018, p. 18). The President’s main goal in operation Geronimo seems to be the certainty that citizens of the US would not experience another 9/11.
Following that, President Obama had a legal justification for acting to ensure the safety of people. Soon after the September 11 attacks, the Authorization to Use Military Force Act (AUMF) was approved and would later give President Obama the legal authority for operation Geronimo. According to Authorization to Use Military Force (2001), the President can use “all necessary and appropriate force” for the protection of the nation (p. 224). Obama was faced with potential terrorist attacks and handling conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he was determined to “address the threat of terrorism” (Scott, 2018, p. 162). AUMF emphasized the President’s right to “prevent acts of international terrorism,” especially against those involved in the events of September 11 (Authorization to Use Military Force, 2001). As Al Qaeda endangered the US, President Obama used his legal authority, given by the already exiting act, to eliminate the leader of the organization.
Furthermore, it is important to consider whether the Authorization to Use Military Force Act can justify the President’s actions overseas. While Al Qaeda had attacked the US, bin Laden was a foreign citizen hiding in another country, so Geronimo’s mission of assassinating him became an international case (Scott, 2018). AUMF gave the President the power to utilize force in order to prevent acts of terrorism against the attackers and those who harbor “such organizations or persons” (Authorization to Use Military Force, 2001, p. 224). Therefore, from the perspective of the US legal system, President Obama had the right to punish the leader of the organization that had harmed the nation (Scott, 2018). One should also notice that President Obama promised a foreign policy that offered tolerance to other countries, as long as they cooperated with the US in fighting extremism and preventing terrorism (Scott, 2018). The President emphasized the need for the isolation of extremists in order for people in the US and beyond to be safe (Scott, 2018). Due to AUMF and President Obama’s policies, the execution of operation Geronimo abroad could be justified within the US.
While Geronimo took place overseas and yet can be assumed to be legal within the US, one should look at the perspective of the country that harbored bin Laden. President Obama had ordered to eliminate the leader of Al Qaeda, who was in Pakistan, but the President did not have permission to do so from Pakistan’s government (Dunlap, 2019). While some people argue that it was a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, others claim that the country had the ability to act against the extremist but instead let him reside there for years (Dunlap, 2019). Therefore, President Obama decided to act “if Pakistan will not or cannot” and used the legal concept of “unwilling or unable” for Geronimo (Scott, 2018, p. 70; Dunlap, 2019, para. 15). According to Dunlap (2019), the concept allowed the US to use force against a person presenting a threat to the nation, regardless of other countries’ sovereignties. Therefore, President Obama’s administration found ways to legally justify operation Geronimo outside the US to ensure the safety of the nation.
To summarize, President Barack Obama had the legal authority for operation Geronimo due to the act approved before he took office. As September 11 attacks have inflicted irreparable damage, the President who symbolized changes in society had to prevent any future harm from Al Qaeda and its leader. Although Geronimo is critiqued by society, one should remember that President Obama has performed his duty of protecting the country. However, while the President managed to justify the enactment of Geronimo in Pakistan legally, one can continue to argue whether the operation was morally right.
Dunlap, C. (2019). Yes, the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden was lawful. Web.
Scott, C. V. (2018). Neoliberalism and US foreign policy: From Carter to Trump. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.