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Mission Accomplished?

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Great news. Osama bin Laden is dead. He was killed in an attack today which was months in planning and struck him deep inside Pakistan. They have the body. They’ve verified the DNA. The bogeyman who financed the 9/11 attacks and inspired 10 years of war and nationbuilding under two administrations is gone and the mission declared in the beginning of the War on Terror has now truly been accomplished.

Was it worth the trillions of dollars spent and the bankrupting of our nation? Was it worth the loss of more than twice as many more American lives as were lost on 9/11 itself? Did it return to us some profit beyond a long drawn out revenge? Is the world safer now than it was 10 years ago? Is this the end of the threat of terrorism?

Obviously the answer to most of these questions is no. The cost was too high, the results are anticlimactic and terrorism remains a multi-headed monster which isn’t going anywhere. Tonight President Obama said as much:

“Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must — and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.”

This raises the specter of the eternal state of war against phantom enemies of 1984. I realize that terrorism isn’t going away and I know that there are fundamental problems in Islam and in the cultures it dominates which generate chaos and societal defects which aren’t going to be cured in one night. But is it too much to hope that the death of bin Laden might ben an opportunity to pause and reconsider the disastrous character of the War on Terror?

In the heady aftermath of victory and delayed gratification finally satisfied, it may not be popular to say it, but let’s keep in mind how little this really means and how much it cost. Killing bin Laden is about 98% symbolic and 2% meaningful. It doesn’t justify more of the same. It’s just a punctuation mark at the end of a legacy of failure. There should be no tolerance for those who want to use this marginal accomplishment to vindicate the torturous process which led up to it and to justify doing more of the same.

Even though it’s basically meaningless, let’s all pretend that killing bin Laden makes all the difference and puts the specter of 9/11 to rest. Let’s say “mission accomplished” and move on the way we should have when Bush first made that declaration. This shouldn’t be a milestone in the War on Terror, it should be the gravestone which marks the end of that ill-conceived venture which has been as bungled by this administration as it was by the previous one.

Let’s call it a turning point and an opportunity to rethink our foreign policy and what our objectives ought to be. This might be the time to return to a model of foreign policy which doesn’t rely on the failed Wilsonian vision of being everyone’s big sister and forcing obedience where we can’t buy affection. We’ve tried that approach and we can no longer afford to try to out-tyrant the tyrants and out terrorize the terrorists. That’s a game which no one wins.

With bin Laden gone, let’s try a foreign policy which is truly American, where we encourage the nations of the world to rise to our level rather than us sinking to theirs. We start by ending the wars and occupations and bringing the troops home to actually defend our land and citizens. Then we can build a new foreign policy based on America’s best interests. With bin Laden gone there is also no longer any excuse for heightened domestic security and we should dismantle the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA and repeal the remaining provisions of the Patriot Act.

By restoring liberty at home we can take away bin Laden’s greatest victory. Overseas we should lead with our strengths and focus on the promotion of free trade and opening up international markets. Let’s let capitalism, prosperity and market forces lay the groundwork for natural change and the development of strong trading partners. Where prosperity leads, the yearning for liberty will follow and tyrannies will fall – all at no cost to American taxpayers.

When we don’t declare “mission accomplished” and pull out, remember that we could have claimed victory and ended this farce and that from now on as nationbuilding in Iraq and Afghanistan metastasizes into rebuilding the entire Muslim world, these are now 100% Obama’s wars of choice.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • Sounds very good, but don’t think it will happen

  • Paul

    Do you realize how many people (soldiers) would be out of a job if we ended occupations in other countries? It’s not like we would need to continue to have nearly as many enlisted men if we kept them all stationed here. Sure, the government would save a load of money – but thats a lot of lost jobs in the short term, particularly for otherwise generally unskilled laborers. Thoughts?

  • Exactly, EB. It won’t happen and therein lies the hypocrisy of the current administration.


  • Greg Tutunjian

    Well said. Could happen with Obama at the helm, but I worry about the leadership changes at DoD and CIA. Will see.

  • Paul,

    Maybe open up some new job opportunities by putting them to work torturing prisoners at home?

    (Don’t come too close, I bite…grumble, grumble, hiss…)


    Apparently those “fortified compounds” aren’t as safe as some people think they are…

  • Good article, Dave, the gist of which, I agree with. It would be a good start.

  • Writing about the foreign policy implications as we speak… look for it in a day or two on BC. I think the immediate effects are quite real and substantive. It gives a symbolic closure to what was for Al Quaeda (9/11) a largely symbolic event. We didn’t kill Obama praying piously in some cave. We caught under the watchful eye of Pakistani intelligence enjoying the goodlife in his multi-million dollar compound. Maybe he should have hired a PR guy before he got himself killed? American foreign will begin to turn a page today and it is a very good thing.

  • The Dave Nalle who wrote this piece and the Dave Nalle of say, 5 years ago, seem to be two different people with two different voices.

    His former rationalizations and defensiveness about Bush-era policies and his current call for a new isolationist posture couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. Is either stance for real?

  • Obama is realpolitik personified. He deals with the world as it is, makes bargains with it designed to obtain the best possible results in a hostile environment. This is what has disenchanted the idealists of the activist left, who deride him as the Compromiser in Chief.

    The irony is that any Republican or Democratic president would have handled the Bin Laden pursuit and the continuity with Bush-Cheney antiterror policies in a roughly similar manner.

    So describing this administration as hypocritical in this area is meaningless. There is no other likely president who would have handled it differently. We are all hypocrites on this bus.

    The main difference is that a GOP president would not likely have tried to close Guantanamo by fiat and tried to initiate civilian trials of terrorists on US soil — both of which Obama initiatives were beaten back by Republicans [and some Democrats] in Congress.

    Another irony is the near certainty that if Obama didn’t have realpolitik to contend with, he would have withdrawn from Afghanistan and closed Guantanamo. His steadfast belief that he must deal with the world as it is, not as he wishes it were, is intellectually deft but has cost him politically, mostly on his left flank.

  • “We didn’t kill Obama praying piously in some cave.”

    As you work on your article, Jerald, make note of who actually got killed.

  • His former rationalizations and defensiveness about Bush-era policies and his current call for a new isolationist posture couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. Is either stance for real?

    I’d like to know where I called for isolationism. Certainly not in this article. There’s a big gulf between not wanting to engage in nation building and wanting to be isolationist.


  • Heloise

    I don’t know about you but I feel safer and a sense of relief. It also vindicates my stand back when Bhutto was killed: Pakistan is not our friend but a painted whore.

    You can’t convince me that they did not know about Bhutto, this has come out, and that they did not somehow relish having the greatest terrorist alive living in a big backyard in their backyard.

    Too bad he won’t go to hell.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    No, you didn’t call for isolationism. In one of your earlier articles, you called for militarily EXPANDING the “War on Terror” to other countries in the Middle East and even Africa. It’s all there for everyone to see:

    Bush ought to look for one or two other soft targets to move on to once the situation in Iraq resolves itself. He needs to steel himself to selling the American people on the idea of ongoing warfare in multiple locations with the objective of keeping the terrorists occupied and spreading order and democracy in troubled parts of the world. His next target should probably be Sudan, because it’s a breeding ground for Islamic discontent, relatively easy to take on, and will win him some good credit internationally. He ought to move troops there as soon as a significant number can be taken out of Iraq. Operations in Sudan shouldn’t take more than a few months, but the situation there will require long-term occupation which we’lll have to do even if the UN doesn’t get off its ass and help. After Sudan Bush should look closely at Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia. If they don’t start implementing democratic reforms in the next two years he should use military pressure to bring them to their senses.

    That’s a far cry from the “we should get out of the Middle East Right Now” that you and most of the other BC conservatives have been saying for some time now. But that’s not the only interesting flip-flop I found in that same article:

    The problem in the system is those who aren’t poor enough for Medicaid and either choose not to or are unable to pay for their own insurance. The answer for them is a system halfway between Medicaid and private insurance – government mandated and underwritten gap insurance. Short term coverage provided to anyone who seeks medical care and does not already have coverage or qualify for Medicaid, which the recipient pays for at a discounted rate because it is partially underwritten by the government.

    That statement stands in stark contrast to what you railed against in this article a little after four years later – that is, when the Democrats were trying to pass a health care reform bill that (as time went on) included that same government mandate that you once supported.

    In other words, Dave, you’ve done what a lot of conservatives have been doing since Obama was elected: when he decides to do what you supported in the past, you shift radically away from said position and castigate him for trying to implement something akin to what you wanted in the first place. Yes, politicians of all stripes have been caught flip-flopping since, well, elections were first held in human history – perhaps among Neanderthals around a campfire. But I must admit I am strongly suspicious of those who flip-flop merely for political positioning in the apparent pursuit of power, and I much prefer the politicians who honestly try not to flip-flop, or who own up to their flip-flop and give a good, valid reason for it.

    That’s why I enjoy not being actually involved in politics – I have the luxury of remaining true to what I believe in.

  • As I observed in a comment here, President Obama and his whole crew must be tried instanter for war crimes.

    Osama should have been gassed (harmlessly) on the basis of a properly supported and issued warrant, put into a deep sleep with the advance permission of Pakistan (judicially approved, of course, at all appellate levels) and transported to New York City for trial in a civilian court. There, he would have had all of the constitutional protections available to those other poor souls driven by abject poverty and by our wicked ways to inflict well deserved harm on the United States and her excessively rich parasites. That’s what we do for those poor Pirates of Somalia when we catch them. Osama is little different and President Obama is guilty of violating his human rights in the most egregious manner possible. Ditto those who suffered collateral damage.

    What must Attorney General Holder think? Was he even consulted? Why has the Civil Rights Division not been heard from yet?

    It’s just not fair! Where are the Libruls? The sound of silence can be deafening.


  • Glenn Contrarian

    btw – it looks like “deathers” are cropping up, saying that Bin Laden either isn’t dead (it was somebody else) or Bin Laden’s been dead a long time and this was all a made-up conspiracy in order to make Obama look good.

    Once these take hold, stand by for Tea Partiers and the like to be caught on camera espousing some variant of “deatherism”….

  • The sound of silence is likely due to people being put to sleep by your weak attempts at humor

  • Re comment #17, Thank you for your persistent and helpful attention to my writings. I regret that I am not available to respond to your comment at this time with the substantive reply it so clearly warrants. Please rest assured that your comments continue to be welcome and that I shall, as always, give them such attention as I deem appropriate.

    This is a recorded message. For an operator, please press *3 for French, *7 for Spanish and *6 for multilingual and continue to hold. Thank you and have a nice day.


  • The wall-to-wall news coverage [“hear the inside story on how CNN broke this story” — at exactly the same time everybody else was breaking it, identically] is not unexpected.

    But the spontaneous demonstrating crowds in Washington and New York were disconcerting. Perhaps it was the lateness of the hour, but they all looked like college kids celebrating at a kegger or a homecoming bonfire. The football-style chants of “U-S-A” just weirded me out.

    The immediate speculation about how this will affect the president’s poll numbers and reelection prospects, while also inevitable, do seem pretty crass.

    The world is better off without Bin Laden in it, even if it is probably true, as Dave says, that the significance is mostly symbolic. I would add, mostly symbolic and psychological. But these are not the same as trivial and unimportant.

    Peter Bergen, pretty knowledgable in these areas, was more definitive: the “war on terror,” he said, is over. The remaining terrorist ‘leaders’ are dwarfs compared to Bin Laden.

  • Why would Americans chanting USA weird you out? Must be a liberal thing.

    How do people singing the National Anthem make you feel?

  • Yes, Andy, shocking as it may be to you, there are people who see the world differently than you do. Some of them just might be right.

  • So Glenn, I’m not allowed to change my opinions over the course of 7 years and with the acquisition of additional data? Sorry, not playing the game that way. And for the record, I changed my position on this well before Bush left office, so it has nothing to do with Obama. I refer you to my article from may of 2008: The Irrationality of Iraq. So this is not exactly a new position for me.

    And I do stand by my original statement on Medicaid. Nothing’s changed there. Obamacare does not include that kind of pragmatic approach to the problem and is the wrong way to address it. I’ve written at length here in favor of a simple, voucher-based healthcare system like those which are very successful in Australia and the Netherlands. I stand by that.


  • Glenn, you seem surprised people wouldn’t trust what the government tells them. Considering the stories first told about Pat Tillman proved to be knowingly false, it seems like a valid response.

    Dan, it’s hard not to pay attention to your writing with your tiresome–er, tireless self-promotion.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I think David Sirota sums up what I think about the “USA!” chanting. In part:

    “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.”

  • Glenn Contrarian

    El B –

    What’s the difference about the Pat Tillman case? If you count all the way up to Bush, it’s likely that perhaps a couple dozen knew about it, and almost all of them were on the same side politically. When it comes to the bin Laden assassination, however, this would require hundreds, many of whom are not on the same political side as President Obama.

    No, there’s no conspiracy here…save perhaps on the Right where pundits even now are trying to spin this in a way that gives more credit to Bush.

  • Thanks, Jordan. Yes, chanting U-S-A at the Olympics or a Davis Cup match is a lot different than after a violent death, even the death of a despised enemy. Even the euphoric V-E and V-J Day celebrations were about an enemy governments surrendering, not about an assassination.

  • The usually all-snarky-jokes Wonkette has gone unusually thoughtful and serious this afternoon:

    “Many liberties have been shredded; many human beings have been tortured. And now a zombie mermaid with a bad kidney named Osama bin Laden is frolicking with dolphins at the bottom of the ocean. So we got what we wanted? Is this “winning”?

    This has been the costliest manhunt in human history; not only in the money spent gathering intelligence and bombing Al Qaeda, but in waging an unnecessary war in Iraq and in the costs suffered by America’s diminished standing in the world and its diminished standing in the eyes of its own citizens.

    We got the bastard. So close the overseas prisons. Stop the torture. And become human beings again. It’s a start.”

  • John Lake

    Got to admit, Nalles right on. Up till
    “build a new foreign policy based on America’s best interests” anyway. Has a corporate ring to it. Some in congress have a heavy trigger finger, and abhor rational behavior; deem it cowardice. Obama has already made the world a safer place for freedom and democracy; he remained cool and collected during Egypt, and now with Libya. Some modern hawks would like nothing better than to start bombing in Syria.”We’re the strong and no no fear.” Those bullets are expensive.
    As to bin Laden, I smell a rat. The whole thing is fishy. A body would have brought it all home.

  • John Lake
  • Cannonshop

    #28 John, Libya was HARDLY “Cool and Collected”. Obama jumped in without a plan, and started bombing before even confirming who was who or which side (of the many) we were on.

    To paraphrase a slogan from your beloved left, sir…

    “Going to War for Humanitarian reasons is like fucking to promote virginity.”

  • America’s been cheering for the demise of the bad guy forever!

    I promise you that the people in Hollywood and the people at Marvel and DC Comics don’t feel the way you liberals do. Otherwise neither would exist. They thrive on the American story of the good guy kicking the shit out of the bad guy and people cheering for it!

    And no matter what you or any cheesedick reporter says, cheering for the death of OBL and cheering for the deaths of 3000 innocent people is no where near the same thing.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Andy, your comment shows an amazing disconnect between real world events and fictionalized stories of superheroes and easily-categorized “good guys” and “bad guys.”

    As much as I might like Batman on the pages of a comic or in film, in the real world he’s a fascist dick.

  • Is that the same DC Comics that has Superman considering giving up his US citizenship?

  • I am amazingly disconnected from EVERYTHING! I like it that way. But you know what? The people that hang out with are all disconnected from YOUR reality. We ALL carry CCP’s too!

    A lot of people have been considering giving up their citizenships over the last two assholes in the whitehouse!

  • CCP – Concealed Carry Permit…just in case you were wondering…

  • Jordan Richardson

    Andy, I was just down in the U.S. for two weeks to sort through some personal matters regarding a death in the family. The vast majority of people I spent time with were Republicans and conservatives. They were all wonderful, giving, compassionate, and extraordinarily helpful – and yes, many even had CCPs and views that differed from mine.

    It’s not a person’s political stripe that matters with respect to being disconnected from reality. It’s something much, much deeper and much, much more important.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Jordan –

    Most Republicans and conservatives ARE nice people. Even most people who hold some racist views are normally nice people as I point out in this article. And so are most Democrats and liberals, though many conservative pundits would tell you otherwise (just like many liberal pundits would tell you the same about those on the Right).

    For instance, one friend I’ve known for more than twenty years is pretty much a neo-con who thinks that all abortion should be illegal no matter what the reason, and that even schoolkids should be allowed to carry firearms to school. You can imagine some of our discussions…but we’re still friends.

    In other words, in general most people really are nice people, regardless of country, religion, race, whatever. It’s only that people hold conflicting beliefs, and we’re often unable to control our tongues or our tempers when someone says something that is completely counter to what we ‘know’ to be true.

    That said, I feel that it is my duty to point out that when everyone comes to understand that I know what’s best for the world and everyone in it, we’ll all get along just fine!

  • Glenn, I feel it is my duty to point out that #37 is the second time in about as many BC days that you have used the word “neoconservative” in a completely inappropriate context.

    I’m not going to tell you what a neoconservative is, but I will give you three hints.

    Neoconservativism has nothing to do with abortion.
    Neoconservatism has nothing to do with carrying guns to school.
    Neoconservatism has everything to do with hating Ron Paul.

  • OK, five hints…neoconservatism is primarily a viewpoint about the primacy of the United States military abroad.

  • In fact some of the neoconservatives who hold most passionately to this viewpoint would be very upset to hear you equating neoconservatism with conservatism on social issues.

    Ask Cotto.

  • Hint six: Neoconservatives will say, “mission accomplished” to your face, but they never really mean it. “Perpetual war, baby. Yeahhhh.” That’s what they’re thinking.”‘ Mission accomplished’ means we’ve just convinced you suckers how much we need the NEXT war we’ve got up our sleeves.”

  • Shut up, I *know* I skipped the fourth hint. You have enough to get you started. Have a nice evening.

  • I’m no fan of social conservatives, neoconservatives or rightist libertarians [myself? I’m a leftist libertarian], but I [and I imagine Glenn too] know they are not identical.

    But they aren’t mutually exclusive either. Not everyone is a purist. Lotsa Republicans and independent conservatives pick and choose from various positions. Most, not all, are very hawkish on defense issues, so they have been open to neocon nonsense.

    The Tea Party and Ron Paul activists who oppose many interventionist wars and are open to cutting the defense budget in a major way — well, it’s my impression they are still a vocal minority, both of conservatives and of GOP voters. Feel free to correct me.

  • Cannonshop

    “Neoconservatives” aren’t Conservatives, they’re basically big-government, “Law and ORder” types whom also believe in the same concepts of “Collective Rights” and “Collective Guilt” that many lunatics on the left cling to.

    Just with different named targets.

    A lot of the worst ones would BE democrats, if the Democratic Party didn’t have at least SOME standards.

    They’re “Opportunistically Conservative”, meaning that they’re only conservatives because in their districts, the LEFT is thoroughly discredited with the voters.

    John McCain, for instance, is the best democrat in the Republican Party-or at least, the most faithful executor of the Democratic Party’s platform in the GOP, he is an example of a “Neo” Conservative-he only turns Conservative if he’s running for office this year, and once the election is over, he turns it off.

    What I’m trying to get across, is that “Neocons” are just opportunists. They’ll pick one or two unimportant and/or irrelevant issues to oppose the Democratic Party on, then vote Dem on every other issue. Favoured Neocon “Issues” include things that aren’t likely to change in our culture, such as Abortion or Illegal Immigration, because they know that little to no real change is likely, but the issues are flashy and provide a cheap form of “Street Cred” and an easy distraction…

  • Cannonshop, when I free-associate with the word “neocon,” I come up with Bill Kristol. If we’re looking for a solid definition of neoconservatism, that’s the specimen we’d be looking at to get it.

  • Bill Kristol, in his evaluation of Obama, would go EVEN a step further than you would Cannonshop, when you claim that a lot of Democrats would be neocons if they could get away with it.

  • Bill Kristol (his dad was called “the grandfather of neoconservatism”) certainly has courted the Religious Right, but he is not part of it, metaphors used in the link above not withstanding. Religion is not primarily what neoconservatism is about, not even, as you say, Cannonshop, secondarily, but rather “When it’s conveniently.”

  • Well, let me start by saying, I’m NOT a nice guy.

    I am somewhat conservative, but kids with guns in school is a little too far for me even. College…maybe! I could give a shit if someone wants to use abortion as a form of birth control, as long as I don’t have to pay for it. I don’t care what you do to the defense budget, as long as you don’t mess with my VA benefits and doing away with the surface navy seems a little drastic. Of course, my history may cause a little bias on that particular issue. What else…oh yeah, if you wanna marry someone, anyone, and be miserable like the rest of us, go for it. I’m kidding about the miserable part…I love my little italian! And legalize pot, yesterday!

    Honestly, I’d like to call myself a libertarian, but there are some real loony MFer’s in the libertarian party!

    I understand that govt has a place. Building roads, rail and taking care of the lanes in the sky are all places for govt. But why do 50% of the people in this country not pay for any of that and still have their hands out? And want even more? I believe that the federal govt needs to get it’s shit together and balance a budget. The rest of us have to do it every day, unless you’re the Donald, then you just declare bankruptcy!

    Some in my family are/were birthers. I don’t know if they still are, I haven’t talked to any of them about it since the long form was released. When I was asked about it, I said I thought it was pretty far fetched that 50 years ago someone had the forethought to put anouncements in the paper. But I don’t like this presidents policies. I believe in a hand up. I believe that Obamacare is BS.

    You want healthcare from the govt., then go to work for the govt. This president and the last congress are getting ready to give away something that it took me twenty years to get from the govt. I’m good with Medicaid and Medicare, like I said, I believe in a hand up once in a while. My granddaughter was born on Medicaid just 6 months ago. My daughter’s 24. Why wasn’t she on my healthcare plan you ask? Because Obamacare is BULLSHIT, that’s why! Okay, really, it’s because that’s how our govt works. The numbers looked to shitty to include Tricare, that’s the military healthcare system, in the under 26 lie, so it was exempted. Way to treat our military, dems love all of us so much.

    But like I said, it’s good to be disconnected! And I’ll keep cheering USA…USA..USA, every time I hear of another asshole jihadist getting what he deserves!