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.