Monday, May 2, 2011

Nine-and-a-half Years

     The old cliché about actions speaking louder than words is certainly true in foreign policy. Lieutenants of al-Qaida around the world must now be examining their positions with a new sense of insecurity. Yesterday’s splendid raid on the bin Laden compound in Pakistan will have spoken clearly enough to put a little dread in the adversaries of liberty. More than a little. In fact, if the world’s most elusive mass-murderer cannot escape U.S. vengeance, after nine-and-a-half years of hiding, who among them is safe? There certainly is much public rhetoric about martyrdom among the fanatics. Still, in the silent calculus of individual power, influence, and survival, it pays little to take up the leadership of a cause when doing so ends in a burial at sea.

     Even so, there will probably be a counter-punch. How hard will it be? We will not know until after it lands—if it lands—but it is vital to make clear to the enemy which horse is the stronger after all (to use bin Laden’s own metaphor). Now we must pursue the leads from the intelligence cache seized during the raid. Now is not the time to let up, to relax, to lower our guard. Nonetheless, it is a day to celebrate.

     It is also a day to give credit to the military heroes who carried out the raid, to the agents and interrogators who gathered the necessary intelligence, to the analysts who put the puzzle pieces together, and to the president who reluctantly adopted his predecessor’s methods and ultimately showed the courage to act. He may be ruining the country with his domestic policy, but on this occasion he brought about victory and justice. This was the perfect operation, the right mission, chosen with correct judgment and superbly carried out. Bombs from on high would have yielded as much doubt as victory. A joint operation would have yielded leaks and failure. Only this personal execution, extraction, and maritime dumping could have combined justice, certainty, and disposal. It was a complete victory.

     As for the others in al-Qaida, they should pay heed. If you kill Americans, you will be repaid in kind. Yesterday, the Navy Seals settled an overdue account.


  1. It certainly was overdue. I have read some accounts that say Europeans (especially) are scratching their heads at the euphoria in the American streets. Some think it's unseemly. Discomforting. Maybe even sinister. Primitive.

    But noplace else experienced what we experienced when this unholy demagogue physically assaulted us in our home.

    We were attacked out of spite for our greatness -- disssed, in the vernacular -- by a madman who fancied himself as a redeemer. What he wanted to redeem was an ancient myth of Arab greatness and a value system that stresses conformity and considers freedom evil.

    In ancient times, worldly success was often suspect (even considered unclean) as if any fortunate person or nation could only be in league with the devil. This attitude survives today in many traditional societies. It is easy to paint us as the hegemon, Leviathan, corrupt and exploitative, etc.

    If such people knew us, they would understand we are -- despite many faults -- not evil, but simply ambitious and industrious, and we have a novel view of history: the future matters, not the past; and the future is made by us, not by fate. The ancient ways were fatalistic. We do not believe in fate.

    We have taken civilization to heights that would have been considered pipedreams and fantasies just five generations ago -- the stuff of wild-eyed fiction. Robots searching for microbes on Mars. Science unraveling the mechanisms of life in the lab. Instantaneous universal information in the palms of our hands. Weather prediction. Disease prevention. Expected lifespans of 80+ years, not 50. And more.

    Yes, we do misuse our power and resources. Yes we are guilty of hubris at times. But nothing like us ever was and every mistake we commit is subject to remediation because our ideas are freely expressed and shared. The results -- sometimes painfully gotten -- hold the promise of progress, which we can pursue because we are free.

    Some would rather live in a superstitious world, where nothing can change, where ancient ways are slavishly preserved and where humanity bears the harsh realities of nature as if it were simply our human fate to suffer, supposing there is a better life after death. Osama was such a man, if we take him at his own word. He wanted to subject the world to an ancient myth, a fatalistic myth, and was willing to kill, to subject us to it. Even more, he was willing to incite others to become "martyrs" in the name of his personal vision of this fatalistic myth, and claimed to desire martyrdom for himself.

    Let such people get on with it, then: seek the next life, and leave us. And if you think it best to first assault us in our home, as if this makes you a better martyr, then we will give you some extra help, with all the fire and fury at our disposal.

    Meanwhile those of us who embrace life and who wish to transcend mortal suffering by working for people in this world carry on.

  2. GTC, this rises above even your usual eloquence. Thanks for being so very generous with your time and talent.

    As to the substance, if this were a petition, I would happily add my signature (though I might quibble about the value of the past, which is the closest we can get to a laboratory of human behavior over meaningful spans of time).