If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. – Sun Tzu (The Art of War, Chapter 3: Attack by Stratagem)
Operation Enduring Freedom, America’s military mission in Afghanistan, was launched on October 7, 2001. This was less than a month after the entirely unexpected events of September 11, 2001, leaving very little time for scrutiny, analysis, or discussion over the merits of any potential options, and the legal basis for the war. Canada had even less time to assess its participation.
Canadians have since been given reason in the subsequent invasion of Iraq to doubt the credibility of claims made by the Bush government. But this skepticism has not been applied retroactively to the first response to September 11, 2001 to view the Afghan mission with a critical eye.
This paper will consider the legal basis used by the U.S. for invading Afghanistan and what legal obligations that creates for Canada as a NATO member. The conclusion will examine what the consequences may have been if alternative courses of action had been adopted. In light of Senator Kenny’s revelations that Canada cannot achieve its goals in Afghanistan, that the mission will cost over $18.14 billion ($1,500 per household), and with recent allegations in the House of complicity in torture, these legal questions form an important backdrop to the ongoing dialogue in Canada about the Afghan mission.