We can be sure that when he woke up this past Sunday, Osama bin Laden probably did not know that he had less than 24 hours to live. Of course, only the denizens of death row know the appointed time of their departure, but he had to know that he had been living on borrowed time ever since 9/11.
When President Obama announced that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden on Sunday evening, the news was met with spontaneous demonstrations of joy and rejoicing throughout the country. The villain who had successfully plotted the deaths of thousands of Americans had received justice and everyone likes it when the good guys win every once in awhile.
I am hopeful that the death of Bin Laden and the manner in which he was killed will also occasion some thought and reflection after the celebration. We have to remember that during the ten years after the 9/11 debacle in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington billions of dollars and thousands and lives have been wasted on missteps and misinformation.
American troops went into Afghanistan with no clear mission other than to avenge 9/11 and in the process Bin Laden and many of his cohorts slithered away. And a decade later over 100,000 American troops are mired in the muck of a war in Afghanistan trying to do subdue or pacify a country and a people that have defied the best efforts of Alexander the Great, the Scythians, the British Empire and the Soviet Union.
During the past decade billions of dollars and thousands of lives were lost in Iraq pursuing the Great Lie of weapons of mass destruction foisted upon America and the world by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell. In the process of losing blood and treasure and capturing Saddam Hussein, a despot who seemed to prefer pornography to plots against the United States, Osama bin Laden continued to inspire plots against this country and its people.
With the death of Bin Laden it is time to revisit the policies that gave him a decade of borrowed time while wasting American lives and treasure. These policies assumed that traditional war strategies would work against an enemy that has no country, no standing army and no permanent base or location.
Bin Laden is not dead because of the 150,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He is dead because a strike team of less than 30 operatives killed him in Pakistan in less than forty minutes. There is a lesson to be learned from this.
Trying to attack Al Qaeda and its affiliates with huge commitments of troops and weapons is akin to trying to kill a mosquito with a shotgun. It is possible that the mosquito will eventually get hit but that strategy is guaranteed to cause untold collateral damage.
More focused and more surgical missions – missions with a purpose – make sense. More troops stationed in morass after morass does not make sense. And the death of Osama bin Laden gives President Obama an opportunity to flip the script.
President Obama can take this occasion to order a complete review and revision of U.S. military policy with the goal of withdrawing almost all military personnel from Afghanistan and Iraq. Remaining military operatives would be engaged in covert and discrete missions that have the clear purpose of capturing or killing individuals who are responsible for planning or committing acts of terrorism aimed at the United States.
The death of Bin Laden offers the perfect opportunity to quit the morass and walk on the solid ground of common sense. And the reward for returning to a sustainable reality will be saved lives, a healing economy and the first steps towards some sense of real national security.
Finally, it is interesting to note that on April 29th, at the time that the White House was releasing President Obama’s birth certificate to quell the braying of Lilliputians like Trump and Palin, President Obama was giving the final order to kill Osama bin Laden. Clearly he can walk and chew gum at the same time.
The events of the past few days offer a pure and clear contrast. There is President Obama focused on critical global and domestic issues, from the killing of Osama bin Laden to ordering federal aid to tornado victims in Alabama. And then there is Doubting Donald, the hustling huckster, working himself into frenzy over birth certificates and college transcripts, as if anything he might say was of any value or import.
The death of Osama bin Laden accomplished a lot.