Monday, May 02, 2011

The Death of bin Laden

Osama bin Laden is dead. After ten years, two wars, billions of dollars spent and countless hours of human labor logged the culprit has been killed. To me, as I assume it was to him, his death was an inevitability. This was the life he had chosen. For a decade his quality of existence had been reduced to midnight flights from cave to cave, compound to compound in barren wildernesses. He was a man of war. He took up the sword. He knew it was coming.

And he certainly deserved justice. I think it would have been better served by a judicial procedure than a precision strike, but I understand that is a bit idealistic of me. By his own admission he was a soldier who initiated, plotted and perpetuated acts of war and murder. As I said, his death had become inevitable.

But then there is the dark side to this whole affair- that Osama bin Laden had become a political prize. He had become the least common denominator- the issue that, while we disagree on just about everything else, Americans could agree on. The hunt for bin Laden and all that it demanded became the price of admission to enter the political rat race. While foreign policy became more complicated than ever, one thing remained simple and true- we will do what it takes to get bin Laden. We will hunt him where he hides. We will never tire. Yep, that will get you votes.

And while I do not contest that he deserved justice- just like every criminal does- I contest the manner in which he and al-qaida were hunted. I contest the number of civilians killed to take him down over the span of a decade. None of us would protest the arrest of a murderer caught in urban America- but how many of us would feel uncomfortable if the military bombed inhabited Brooklyn apartment buildings because they thought that murderer might be hiding inside? And yet in 2010 hundreds of human beings were killed by anti-al-qaida raids; only an estimated 2% of those were consequential al qaida operatives. Such a war on bin Laden and his minions is not actually justice by any definition- it's just good politics.

But the most important question- does his death make us safer? Does it bring peace closer? No, and no. You are not safer because bin Laden is dead, unless you think he was ever going to physically show up on your doorstep and harm you in the first place. The death of a martyr will not dampen the flames of fanaticism any more than the death of Nathan Hale signaled the beginning of the end of the American Revolution. Bin Laden was never more than a symptom- a symptom of deep wells of injustice, poverty and hatred. Things the War on bin Laden did NOTHING to heal.

So, in closing- he is dead, and the world has not changed because of it. Now let's focus some of the resources and attention we spent hunting him on the issues that created him in the first place.


Blogger Cal said...

Good perspective friend.

9:06 AM  

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