• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • USA Had Legal Right to Enter Pakistan and Kill Bin Laden

    Was it legal for the United States to enter Pakistan, without their consent, to kill or capture Osama bin Laden?  The successful raid by the SEALs on May 2, 2011, which apparently occurred without the express or implied permission of Pakistan, has kicked off a debate in policy and legal circles.

    The short answer is, under these circumstances, yes.

    There are, to be sure, several legal and policy issues surrounding this operation.  The broad legal question, however, as succinctly put by former State Department Legal Advisor Ashley Deeks, is this: “may one state use force in another state’s territory in self-defense against members of a non-state armed group, and what constraint does the principle of sovereignty impose on that action.”

    As Ashley explains in her post on the website of the American Society of International Law,  it boils down to whether the territorial state (here Pakistan) is “unwilling or unable” to “unilaterally suppress the threat.”  According to Ashley, “Only if the territorial state is unwilling or unable to eliminate the threat may the victim state [here the USA] lawfully use force.”

    Thus, it seems that the Obama administration must have concluded that, under those principles, the government of Pakistan was “unwilling or unable” to eliminate the threat Osama bin Laden posed to the United States.

    To read Ashley’s entire (short) post, click here.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to USA Had Legal Right to Enter Pakistan and Kill Bin Laden

    1. Common Sense, Arvada says:

      "Legal Write", shouldn't that be "legal right"?

    2. West Texan says:

      Cully wrote "USA had legal write …" Was 'write' intended or a typo?

    3. Redfray, Pea Ridge, says:

      Let me see if I have this right. America could go after Bin Laden because Pakistan was "unwilling and unable" to do it themselves. In that case, shouldn't we go into Mexico after "Drug Lords" because Mexico is "unable" to do anything about it, and what about South America?

    4. Justin, Florida says:

      Considering "occurred without the express or implied permission of Pakistan", how did Obama conclude that Pakistan was “unwilling or unable” to eliminate the threat Osama bin Laden. If Pakistan was notified about Osama and his location, and then refused to act or was not able to, it would then be considered "legal". Instead, the US government assassinated an untried and unarmed individual on a foreign countries sovereign ground without that countries expressed permission or knowledge.

      Besides, wouldn't our nations "heritage" be better represented by a trial of Osama bin Laden. Instead of resorting to the same methods used by terrorist.

    5. Cully Stimson Charles Stimson says:

      As to Redfray's point above, the answer is no. We are not in a legal state of armed conflict with drug kingpins. The so-called "War On Drugs" is a metaphorical war, not an actual legal state of armed conflict. It is not covered under the September 18, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, or for that matter under generally accepted principles of international law.

    6. West Texan says:

      To Redfray. UBL carried out his declaration of war on America. His unprovoked attacks were responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent victims, leaving survivors to suffer life long disabilities. His ultimate goal being the annihilation of every man, woman and child in the USA. And for no other reason than an ideologically driven hatred toward non-Muslims. This worthless bearded creep earned his lead jewelry by being a continued threat to western civilization. UBL's violent end was not only well deserved, but his love of death was made possible by SEAL team six on behalf of a victimized (and now grateful) country.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.