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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Random thoughts on global affairs and domestic stupidity

So, of course, the big news this week is that Osama bin Laden is dead, killed by U.S. forces in a raid in Pakistan. (Cue singing in the streets of New York and Washington.)

Funny things come of such news.

Funny. (And not meant to be taken seriously. One hopes.)

Unfortunately, there's also this:

"Let's be clear on this: OBAMA did NOT kill Bin Laden. An American soldier, who Obama just a few weeks ago was debating on whether or not to PAY, did. Obama just happened to be the one in office when our soldiers finally found OBL and took him out. This is NOT an Obama victory, but an AMERICAN victory!! REPOST IF YOU AGREE!!!"

Not funny. And this has so much stupid in it, it makes my brain shut down.

There have been many different reactions to the death of bin Laden, from celebration to grave concern, which all have merit. But my pet peeve is when people base their reactions on half-truths, platitudes and blind patriotism, that simply continues our stupidity. So, let's clarify a few things.

1. "Obama did not kill bin Laden." Nope, neither did Bush. In fact, I can't think of the last time a president of the United States ever picked up a deadly weapon and ended someone's life. So, it's kinda stupid to be all "Oh, Obama didn't kill bin Laden, a SOLDIER did." Yes, thank you, Captain Obvious.

But to give all of the credit to the U.S. military for the success of the operation is equally ridiculous. "Soldiers" did not "find" Osama bin Laden. A sophisticated network of U.S. Intelligence Officers pieced together years of gathered intel until they finally had a break, reasonably believed they had located bin Laden and, after a great deal of vetting of the intel, the President sent in a team of Navy SEALs in helicopters to storm the compound in Pakistan. This is what you call a team effort. The CIA couldn't have done it without the intel from the prisoners captured by the military. Neither the CIA nor the military could have done it without support from the Administration in the form of resources and personnel to gather and process the intel. The military wouldn't have done it at all if it wasn't for the order of the President who had to weigh what was purely circumstantial evidence of the target's location. Team effort.

So, sorry to disappoint all you haters out there. The President does deserve a lot of credit here. He had to make the call to go ahead with a mission that was dangerous and could have devastating consequences (a Mogadishu-type of epic fail comes to mind). Not to mention he deserves credit for shifting resources back to the Afghanistan front, as the former president does for initiating the effort. Congress deserves some credit for continuing to fund the efforts in Afghanistan. The CIA, in spite of its less-than-favorable methods of interrogation, had their Jack Bauer moment of awesomeness in a very rare public victory. And the military implemented a successful operation that resulted in the elimination of a dangerous, criminal mastermind without American casualties. This success does come at a high cost of human life over the past decade, and a great deal of mismanagement and bungling by those very same agencies and individuals. So, if you want to get uppity about who gets the proper credit, then you should give the proper credit, not just make blanket statements about the military that are factually misleading and ignore the contributions of others.

2. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to recall that Congress makes the budget, not the executive branch, and both parties were squabbling like whiny little children and almost shut down the government and froze everyone's pay. But what do I know. Let's just blame it all on Obama, it can't be anyone else's fault.

3. More important than who gets credit/blame is the question of what now? The death of bin Laden aside, the mission itself has some significant foreign policy implications. Pakistan... oh my. Although the US certainly stops short of saying so, the Administration clearly believed Pakistan to have (at least enough) ties to bin Laden that notification to the Pakistani government of the impending raid would have jeopardized the mission. That's pretty significant. What's also significant is that bin Laden has apparently been in that elaborate compound for over 5 years, which also happened to be in a military town, down the street from a military college. How embarassing! What could have been a foreign policy nightmare for Washington if the intel proved wrong has instead given the US a great deal of new pull with Pakistan, political leverage that will need to be used wisely.

Will there be retaliation? Probably. Although bin Laden's death is a significant blow to al Qaeda, it is certainly not that large of a blow. It is more of a symbolic gesture. There are others who will take his place. But it may very well escalate the effort on both sides. The US, previously riding a tide of discontent for foreign war, is rejuvenated by this success. The extremists will not view this as a defeat, but as an opportunity.

Cause to celebrate or not, the reality is that bin Laden's death is not the end. It does not undo the damage he and his co-conspirators have caused, the lives they have taken. The September 11 attacks are the big one, but the cockroach had been around for quite awhile before then. Although I wish they could have taken him alive, so that he could be tried and fully answer for his crimes, he certainly had it coming.


Tree Hugging 3L said...

I could not agree with you more.
I was so pissed when my roommates and I were watching the news and they kept commenting how it was bullshit that Obama was taking credit.
2 things on that.
1) He deserves (at least some) of the credit he "took."
2) Any other President (including lovely Bush) would have done the exact same thing.
I also have a bit of an issue with how much celebrating really went on. The hateful words on facebook and the like kind of make me ill. I agree that he was evil and had it coming - but, at the same time, "celebrating" death is exactly the thing that Americans should be against.

LL said...

Your take on this is my favorite. It's a team effort first and foremost, but of course Obama gets some of the credit (emphasis being some). It's so true - success is to be shared but in failure you're all alone. Can you imagine how ripped apart he would have been if the raid had gone badly?

(And I have zero problem celebrating Osama's death. Are you kidding me? He was evil and masterminded the death of thousands of people-- and was proud of it. This idea that Americans shouldn't celebrate death makes no sense to me. Of course we can and we have before. The world is a better place with him gone and I remain gleefully happy it happened.)

Anita said...

I saw that post on my Facebook page the other day and it made me so mad that I had to comment even though I barely knew the person who posted it (it was someone with whom I had gone to high school). I am really glad I'm not the only one who finds it really upsetting. I think politics aside now is the time for Americans to unite together and be grateful and hope we stay secure. I can't believe that people are using this as an opportunity to bash the President. I guess they will use any excuse-- even when he does something they've been saying they want ("we will hung him down and find him and kill him...) Sad! Thank you for blogging about this.

Jackie O'Brien said...

Great post, thank you for sharing. I honestly can't agree with you more.

- Jackie from Natick real estate.