Operation Enduring Rescue is basically an American enterprise. And the Bush administration did not get authorization from the Security Council. But professor Trimble notes that, in principle, Bush did not need one; that the charter itself authorizes use of force in Article 51. And if you want to get technical, since international law requires states to prevent their territory from being used for attacks on other states, Afghanistan‘s failure to do so gives the U.S. justification to resort to force, with or without allies or a coalition. That military response, however -- and this is the key point -- must be proportionate and restricted to apprehending members of al Qaeda.
We should not lose sight of this. Confronting today’s terrorism may require help from the military, but as with war crimes, the final arbiter ought to be the legal system. And if the left can accept some bloodshed in the interest of pursuing justice, the rest of the country can accept that the best justice may not involve bloodshed. Bush‘s odd ad-lib about “an old poster out West” and the bounty hunter’s credo “dead or alive” was not encouraging. It‘s more primitive than the justice Bush keeps invoking in his prepared speeches, a justice more likely found in a courtroom than in a dusty crevasse in the Pashtun mountains. If Bush is going to wax philosophical about defending democracy and its institutions, then he should respect them, which means doing what it takes to bring bin Laden to trial.