Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | May 2, 2011

A Terrorist is Dead

It’s probably best to write about Osama bin Laden now, because in strategic terms, he has been irrelevant for some time.  Al Qaeda and Islamist terrorism will go on without him.  He is dead; there will be no protracted business with incarceration and trial.  He was one man, rendered largely impotent in his chosen profession by the need to hide and minimize his contacts with the outside world.  Bin Laden himself was defeated years ago, carried out with a tide he could not swim against.  The truth is that there will be no need to keep talking about him in the coming days.  So now is the time to write.

The president gave a fine speech tonight: short, to the point, and choosing rightly to honor the special forces and intelligence effort that got bin Laden in the end.  The full difficulty of the task may not be understood by the public for some time.  The military and intelligence community are to be commended for their quiet, effective execution.  This operation will serve as a warning to other terrorist planners about our capability to track them down, even when they are hidden in specially built compounds near Islamabad, undoubtedly with the full knowledge of senior officials in Pakistan.

I am saddened to see the crowd outside the White House, cheering and chanting “USA! USA!”  Nothing has been won with this killing.  This is not a victory.  It’s not even justice.  There can be no “justice” for 9/11; there can only be healing, renewal, and the strategic defeat of the Islamist terrorist idea.  The attacks on 9/11 were something human justice can never redress.  Symmetrical vindication is impossible.  The only useful response is what America did after 9/11:  change the conditions Islamist terrorists operated in; reach into their world and disrupt it, flooding it with light and noise until they scattered like cockroaches.

I join President Obama in welcoming the demise of bin Laden.  In the sense that it was not unjust to kill him, we may say, as Obama did, that “justice has been done.”  But it doesn’t feel American to me to wave flags and cheer over the assassination of a middle-aged terrorist hidden in a compound in northeastern Pakistan.  Street demonstrations cheering an assassination don’t belong here.  Save the flags for when America has done something noble and great – or at least for when the achievement has strategic meaning.

Bin Laden’s demise comes, fittingly, at a time when the momentum of Islamist radicalism is shifting from nihilistic terrorist acts to the avenue of seeking political power.  That doesn’t mean there will be no more efforts at large-scale terrorism.  There undoubtedly will be.

But the nexus of Islamism is migrating slowly but inexorably toward politics and centers of national power.  Even before he was dead, bin Laden was to a significant extent superannuated.  Real opportunities have opened in the last six months for radical Islamists to gain influence in, or take over, seats of government.  Islamism was oriented for decades on harassing sitting governments, in both the Middle East and the West.  But today, the opportunities for Islamists to gain political power – along with armies and missile arsenals – extend well beyond revolutionary Iran and the Afghanistan of the Taliban era.

Bin Laden was not a leader in this emerging thrust of Islamism.  He wasn’t suited to be someone who mattered going forward – and he hasn’t been for several years.  We can certainly expect that there will be attempts at terrorist retaliation, or demonstrations of continued vitality, in the days ahead, but the attention of Islamists and Islamism is really focused elsewhere now.

I don’t begrudge anyone, especially those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, their gratification that “we got him.”  A little more of the past has been mopped up.  I trust the good sense of the American people to put the flags down quickly, and move forward into a future in which we wave them for better reasons.

J.E. Dyer blogs at Hot Air’s Green Room and Commentary’s “contentions.”  She writes a weekly column for Patheos.


Responses

  1. I concur completely. I feel no need for celebration. I’m glad he’s dead, but sorry that it took a decade to get him. Nine years ago, his death would have been more significant, I think.

  2. Agreed – My eldest and I talked about it last evening.

    It’s almost like the radios lit up in 1943….
    Yammamoto is dead!! The War is over!! Let’s go home and celebrate by dismantling the War Department, jack up taxes and use the money to buy more votes…

    Josh was correct on his Facebook status about the news. Bin Laden was just a general, who had been largely neutralized… He is a fish.. but not the “big one”. When you land a punch against a dangerous opponent, steel yourself for the reply.

    And the ultimate insult was that his body was treated with Islamic respect (How does one teach that the survivors of a demon should not be granted the honor of a proper burial?) So ultimately for the Death Cult that we face… we demonstrated the ultimate weakness. We were ultimately cowed. Bin Laden’s martyr status was preserved by his killers.

    As the self-satisfied wipe their hands and walk away with satisfaction on their minds… beware the head shot from the dark corner of cold reality… it is coming.

    Bin Laden is dead. Fine, but the war most assuredly is not over, and our guard is down.

    r/The Mighty Fahvaag

  3. I agree that this is good news but nothing to celebrate about. I thought that the President’s announcement hit just the right tone.

    I don’t begrudge bin Laden a respectful burial. Nor a relatively quick one. But I do worry that burying him at sea so quickly and apparently without any “neutral” witnesses (at least another country’s military or diplomats) to identify him, will permit/encourage the radical Islamists to simply deny his death. Remember the nonsense with Che’s autopsy photos. And wait until the terrorists release an audio or video purporting to have been made after his death.

  4. A very fine post (as usual) but I’ll take exception to the concern over celebrating this event. Despite OSL’s diminished role, he was the face of terrorism, esp. that of 9/11. The celebrations allow an important release of the anger we’ve felt. I’m a Pearl Harbor baby (born 9 months later) and so too young to remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but my parents’ generation regarded The Bomb as mete and just retribution apart from its tactical efficacy. We hated “them Japs” because they sucker punched us in Hawaii, and the A-bomb permitted emotional closure over that sneak attack.

    9/11 was also a sneak attack, and OSL’s death satisfies two urges: the need for revenge, and confirmation that we can and will kill our enemies. I too hope the demonstrations are short-lived. OSL was strategically irrelevant, as you say. But his relevance as the head of the snake persisted until last night. Perhaps a minor victory in the larger scheme, but a very real one. One worth celebrating!

    Cheers.

    • tminus1 — welcome! My apologies for the one-time delay in the appearance of your comment. Keeps the spam down. Now that you’re “approved,” your comments will post automatically. Chime in any time.

      • Thank you! Glad to be aboard. My first act will be to correct my initials for Osama — I wrote OSL when I meant OBL. Still don’t know what I was thinking at that moment.

  5. It was necessary that he be brought o book and he deserves to have no respectful burial but to have his body treated with contempt. That’s what he earned.

    • I agree, but who would then take that to be a declaration of war?

  6. Justice has its own value beyond the recent activities or relevance of Osama bin Laden, or whether Al Quaeda is now anything more than a franchise whose sell-by date has expired. In executing this surgical strike we can presume that the operatives were left in little doubt that it would be best to discourage bin Laden from taking the option of surrendering into the custody of the strike-force. In this case ‘dead’ is far better than ‘alive’ – and a trial where it might have been difficult to legally prove the connection between bin Laden (standing mute) and the planning or execution of 9/11.

    However, we are a civilized people – not barbarians. The idea of denying even a cowardly enemy a civililized burial is not something I am comfortable with. Remember, we provided the condemned Nazis (who did far far worse than bin Laden ever did) the benefits of religous counsel in their final hours. I would hope that a Moslem clergyman was on hand to say whatever prayers are demanded by that faith before the body was consigned to the deep. This is probably more than he would have done for his victims. But that is one of the things which makes us what we are, and him what he was.

  7. A respectful burial is what is due to us, not what is due to him.

    • I said “that is one of the things which make us what we are, and him what he was”.

      In deference to your response, I will happily uninclude you from the “us”.

  8. It’s right that killing him isn’t a war ending victory; but it is a strategic one in the sense that it, like the rooting out of Saddam and the dispersal of the Taliban from Kabul, sends a message that our memory is as long as our reach if we’re angered enough. I think the Romans had an apropos saying to the effect that it’s enough that they fear us.

    As to burial, as long as a couple of the Seals discretely flicked the ashes of their celebratory cigars on the corpse it’s no big thing to have let a mullah wash it and throw it into the sea.

  9. […] A terrorist is dead. The president gave a fine speech tonight: short, to the point, and choosing rightly to honor the special forces and intelligence effort that got bin Laden in the end.  The full difficulty of the task may not be understood by the public for some time.  The military and intelligence community are to be commended for their quiet, effective execution.  This operation will serve as a warning to other terrorist planners about our capability to track them down, even when they are hidden in specially built compounds near Islamabad, undoubtedly with the full knowledge of senior officials in Pakistan. […]

  10. the question to be answered is where we go with Pakistan after this. Got a feeling that all that anti-terror and military aid money we’ve been shoveling at them is either gonna stop or be accompanied by lots of rather pointed questioned.

    that deserve a lot of very honest answers.

  11. …honest answers that will be forthcoming no more than ever. We couldn’t push up a rope last week, and we won’t be able to next week.

    • their butts are hanging open a bit more now and that rope is going have more force behind it.

      in the absence them turning over some more AQ guys, we start dropping rockets in Quetta ‘stead of dropping off bundles of bucks for the military toys that they like.

      still no answers and we might return to sending manned craft in hot pursuit to their territory,

  12. It would pain me to be involved in it, but a respectful burial was correct. Our military keeps its eye on the mission, and perceived disrespect to Islam would needlessly make our mission more difficult. My personal preference for disposal of his remains would have involved a herd of feral razorbacks, but that’s why our military is better than me.

    • We did what was right and decent in the circumstances.

      Well done to the military, both for its efficiency in executing this risky and complex operation, and for its ability to distinguish between justice and vindictivness.

      (p.s. Wasn’t it wonderful to see all those Republicans congratulating the President through chenched teeth?)

      • “(p.s. Wasn’t it wonderful to see all those Republicans congratulating the President through chenched teeth?)”

        Yes, but you’re all done enjoying that–our pleasure at the successive fumbles by the Obama Administration in just trying to get their story straight is undoubtedly just beginning.

  13. […] Optimist Conservative: A Terrorist is Dead […]


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