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.