"We got him." We. That 3rd person plural pronoun that encapsulates 300 million people with two letters. We're typically a we only when something tragic occurs.
In this War on Terror, there are no enemy Divisions to annihilate, no capital cities to take. There's no ground to gain, no head of state to surrender, or kill themselves in a bunker. There are no sunken battleships, no captured tanks, no trophies. Only casualties and confusion.
Until May 1st, 2011.
The War on Terror is not over. Just ask the various agencies now on high alert for a terrorist response. This War will never truly end in the way past wars have ended. There are plenty of terrorist sheep and shepherds from Libya to Saudi Arabia to Pakistan to Chechnya. They all hate us even more now. We've killed one of their idols. They'll try to destroy us even without Bin Laden.
But Bin Laden was important, in sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy kind of way. He was important because we felt he was important. And because his followers felt he was important. He was the charismatic leader of legions of would-be murderers. He was a spokesman, a PR guy, a recruitment tool. He was a standard to rally around. The anti-Uncle Sam, personified. And maybe our enemies won't have as much focus and direction now that he's been erased.
The closest thing I'd compare Bin Laden to, ironically, is an 11th century Crusader. He was one of the Saudi Arabian aristocracy that applied his material wealth to a fanatic cause instead of simply living a life of lavish extravagance. He wanted to wipe out all threats to his beliefs and wanted to forcibly change the world. He was very much like a Norman nobleman, spending his vast fortune on a quest to "save" the Holy Land through violence. He has more in common with the Crusading infidels than with the likes of anti-Crusade Islamic leaders such as Saladin.
And now he's dead. And it was the much maligned US intelligence community that incited his death. The same intelligence apparatus that failed to warn us of 9/11, that failed to find Bin Laden for 10 years, and that was duped into believing Iraq had WMDs.
It was human intelligence, partially gathered from Guantanimo Bay, which Obama had once wanted to shut down. It was a military operation executed to perfection. No US casualties. No civilian casualties. One body recovered, in near mint condition.
A cruise missile or drone strike might have yielded the same ultimate result, but without the tactile, visible proof of a corpse.
It was a ballsy attack. Obama certainly deserves a great deal of credit for having the stones to give the order. Everyone from he to the CIA to the planners of the operation to the guys who carried it out to the people who knew about it and kept their mouths shut. They all deserve credit.
The circumstances around Osama's hiding spot are beyond sketchy. While top levels of Pakistan's government profess to be "with us" in this War on Terror, it's difficult to fully believe that. Bin Laden moves into a neighborhood of Pakistani Generals, in the biggest house for miles, and nobody knows he's there? Come on.
I don't know everyone who lives in my neighborhood, and generally we all keep to ourselves, but I do know that Ernie Boch Jr. lives in the biggest house in the area. Everyone knows that. Just like before he lived there, a weird commune/cult of 20 people occupied the house, and before that there was a rich old lady. Everyone knows when someone moves into the biggest house on the block.
"If you're not with us, you're against us."
GW Bush got criticized for that polarizing statement. But it has a breath of truth to it. We can see by the various reactions around the world, who is with us, and who is against us. It's difficult to classify Pakistan as being "with us." Then again, they've registered no official complaint about violating sovereign territory of theirs. So who knows. I think they're split as to which side to be on.
But they're in the wrong geographic spot at the wrong moment in history to be split.
There's a long, long way to go. The War on Terror won't be won with Divisional level ground operations like those in Iraq or Afghanistan. Those can topple governments that support Terror, but installing new ones is next to impossible, and a needless waste of life and material.
Even house-to-house operations, road blocks, checkpoints, and border patrols are too cumbersome, too ineffective, and too easily circumvented.
More operations like this one are needed. War Party Tactics, I call them. Like the Pequots of 1635, or the Wampanoags of 1675, or the Apaches of the 1800s. Small, ultra-mobile bands of elite warriors, on short-term missions against small but highly valuable targets. Imagine if Geronimo had helicopters, machine guns, grenades, and an effective intelligence apparatus.
Think about it. After 10 years in Afghanistan, after nearly 1,500 US deaths, 2,400 coalition deaths, over 7,500 Afghan Security Force deaths, and tens of thousands of civilian deaths; it was a 40 minute, 0 casualty, 0 collateral damage operation that was the biggest victory of this War since the Taliban was ousted.
The lesson here is that human intelligence is integral. The US intelligence community can't just sift through millions of e-mails and phone calls, hoping to harvest a crop of valuable facts. There needs to be real, actionable information. Texture to add depth and dimension to the data.
And the US military needs to focus its monstrous power on supporting smaller but intensely focused, laser-like operations. No need for Shock and Awe. No need for entire Divisions of infantry to be deployed against villages and huts.
As we incorporate the sharp, bittersweet joy of Osama's death into our lives, and it seems to fade away, we'll start to politicize these events. Already, pundits are looking ahead to the 2012 Presidential campaign, giving Obama a huge edge because of this. And they're right. Although, the biggest GOP threats to him were Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, which might be threatening if Obama were trying to launch a reality TV show, as opposed to winning an election.
There are already judgmental uberpacifists whining about their fellow citizens celebrating the death of a mass murderer. And while I understand why many feel uncomfortable about enjoying death, it's my right to enjoy his demise. After all, we didn't kill Osama because he was Muslim. We didn't kill him because he hated us. We killed him because he killed our fellow citizens. He made us live with fear. He would have killed more of us if he had the chance.
People like Kai Wright are moaning that The Ability to Kill Bin Laden Does Not Make America Great. I'm seeing Martin Luther King Jr. quotes everywhere. "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars." Edmund Burke perfectly expressed my responding thought to that:
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
While even the most ardent of the uberpacifists agrees that Bin Laden should be dead, they still don't understand why the rest of us are celebrating death. I for one am not celebrating out of hatred. I'm celebrating the triumph of good over evil. I think that such a triumph is worth a few frathouse antics in front of the White House, a toast of beer to our troops, I'm even praising Barack Obama.
Evil did not triumph on May 1st, 2011. And I'm happy.
I'm only 26 years old. 9/11 was one of the defining moments of my youth. I was sitting in high school physics class when it happened. I had a free period after and went to a study center to listen to the news on the radio. Hearing descriptions like "the tower just collapsed," and being unable to conjure such a surreal image in my brain.
The whole country changed that day. There was a sense of vulnerability we all realized. We're still vulnerable. But we're also a bit prouder today. It was painful to think that somebody could assault us with impunity. So while the War wages on, while we still take off our shoes at the airport, at least that pain of seeing Osama get away with murder can now dissipate.
May 1st was a great day for Americans, and a great day for America.