Don’t get me wrong – I’m delighted and relieved that Osama Bin Laden has been brought to justice, proud of our military and thankful that our intelligence community finally did something so well.
But let’s keep the big picture…
“As Osama himself told CNN in 1997, “the U.S. wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose agents on us to rule us and then wants us to agree to all this. If we refuse to do so, it says we are terrorists… Wherever we look, we find the U.S. as the leader of terrorism and crime in the world.”
“Bin Laden’s message resonated throughout the Muslim world. But U.S. officials remained deaf to its meaning, and continued obsessed with al Qaeda and its Taliban allies. The upshot — U.S. policy was the best recruiter Osama could have asked for. Over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, CIA killer teams, mercenaries, predators, and “diplomats” swarmed across the region from Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia, supported by sprawling new bases and pharaonic embassies.
“The bill for all this — for an America crippled by cutbacks in health, infrastructure. and education — will be in the trillions of dollars. But despite this massive effort, none of those targeted Arab countries could by any stretch of the imagination be considered a success story. Hostility to the U.S. is high throughout the region. In polls, the majority of those Arabs queried consider the United States a greater threat than al Qaeda.
“In Pakistan, despite the U.S. lavishing tens of billions of dollars on that country’s military, it turns out that Osama bin Laden, rather than groveling as an outlaw in the isolated tribal regions, has been living in a fortified villa near the country’s major military academy and a large army base, just a few miles away from the capital city.”
“A decade after the U.S. invaded, tens of thousands of American troops are still fighting what seems to be, at best, a see-saw battle against the Taliban. There also, according to another report in the New York Times , the U.S. is backing incompetent, corrupt, unpopular leaders. Millions of dollars of U.S. funds actually get diverted as payoffs to the Taliban and their allies…”
“Where will the next front be in this generational war? Who will be the next bogeyman, the “face of evil” that galvanizes American fears and determination alike? With all that is at stake — politically, economically, ideologically — the one thing we can be reasonably assured of is that the present paradigm will continue in full force.
“I would very much like to report the opposite. By cutting off the head of al Qaeda, and with due regard to the pro-democracy surge of the Arab Spring, the era of perpetual warfare could be supplanted by a period of unprecedented peace. America might slowly draw down its military operations, and redirect vast resources to education and opportunity for oppressed peoples in the Middle East and here at home alike. President Obama may finally earn his Nobel Peace Prize, and concomitantly help move the country from the near-ruination of a war economy to the stable prosperity of a long-awaited peace dividend. Renewed American pride could obviate the need for ever-expanding security schemes and incursions into liberty, as people are again seen as “good.”
“It could still happen this way, but it will take more than the death of one individual — no matter his iconic stature as evil incarnate — to somehow countermand the events and roll back the ethos of recent years. However it breaks in the days ahead, one thing is paradoxically certain: we will continue to find ourselves living in decidedly uncertain times.”
“…in the years since 9/11, we have begun vaguely mimicking those we say we despise, sometimes celebrating bloodshed against those we see as Bad Guys just as vigorously as our enemies celebrate bloodshed against innocent Americans they (wrongly) deem as Bad Guys. Indeed, an America that once carefully refrained from flaunting gruesome pictures of our victims for fear of engaging in ugly death euphoria now ogles pictures of Uday and Qusay’s corpses, rejoices over images of Saddam Hussein’s hanging and throws a party at news that bin Laden was shot in the head.
“This is bin Laden’s lamentable victory — he has changed America’s psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he’s helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history — the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed.”
“But beyond the emotional fulfillment that comes from vengeance and retributive justice, there are two points worth considering. The first is the question of what, if anything, is going to change as a result of the two bullets in Osama bin Laden’s head? Are we going to fight fewer wars or end the ones we’ve started? Are we going to see a restoration of some of the civil liberties which have been eroded at the alter of this scary Villain Mastermind? Is the War on Terror over? Are we Safer now?
“Those are rhetorical questions. None of those things will happen. If anything, I can much more easily envision the reverse. Whenever America uses violence in a way that makes its citizens cheer, beam with nationalistic pride, and rally around their leader, more violence is typically guaranteed.”