Monday, May 2, 2011

After 10 Long Years ...

... Osama bin Laden is dead.

President Obama announced in a rare Sunday night announcement that U.S. forces -- reportedly Navy SEALs -- raided a mansion outside Islamabad, Pakistan on Sunday, and that bin Laden was killed in a firefight by a bullet to the head.

In a sense, the news brings a finality to America's decade-long mission in Afghanistan -- even though no one can seriously suggest that we bring the troops home now that bin Laden is dead. I would love that (for a number of reasons), but a complete troop withdrawal at this point isn't feasible.

Political maneuvering will undoubtedly take over, if it hasn't already. Some will note that President Obama managed in three years what President Bush never accomplished in two terms; others will claim that 2012 is now in the bag for President Obama.

At this point, I'll simply call this a victory for America. Regardless of his current status within al Qaeda, bin Laden was the mastermind of the worst terrorist attacks ever perpetrated on U.S. soil, and the fact that American forces brought him down is a cause for celebration.

Is it a bit skeevy to be, in effect, celebrating the death of another human being? A little, but when one considers what bin Laden did in his life -- not just masterminding 9/11, but also being responsible for the bombing of the USS Cole, and a number of other atrocities -- it takes some of the sting out of it.

Besides, imagine the circus if he'd been captured alive and we faced the prospect of trying him. As crass as this sounds, this was never going to end with bin Laden being brought in alive. He was always either going to be killed, or he was going to hide out long enough that he died of natural causes before forces could get to him.

One thing this does do (despite the myriad of questions going forward -- ranging from what do we do now in Afghanistan to what were we doing in Pakistan to how we prepare for a potential backlash from al Qaeda) is solidify President Obama's stance on the War of Terror. Being a Democrat -- and someone who's long chastised "dumb wars" -- the president has often been criticized for his stance on foreign policy.

But in the span of six weeks, he deliberated with his senior staff on actionable intelligence regarding bin Laden, then on Friday, he gave the order to conduct the mission. Sunday night, bin Laden was dead and Americans were celebrating.

Does that sound like someone who's weak when it comes to military operations?

Either way, bin Laden's death is a significant chapter in American history, and it is a cause worthy of celebration. We should not, however, overreact and proclaim the end of combat missions in Afghanistan or the War on Terror.

Don't get me wrong: I would be elated if tomorrow, we announced that every combat troop serving in Afghanistan and Pakistan was coming home and that we were ceasing operations -- both because it would mean fewer American casualties and because it would save us a boatload of money.

But it's not that simple. It should be, but it's not.


  1. I feel like this is the first step on a very long path, but perhaps, a different and better path than we've been on the past 10 years. It's closure, for that horrible day and this rotten decade where the solutions all seemed to make every problem worse. And I'll take it.

  2. Oh, no doubt; I'll take it too. I'm also quite interested in the motherload of intelligence we gathered at the compound as well; to me, that's probably of greater import in the long run. But I'd be lying if I said knowing we took down bin Laden didn't feel damn good.