Monday, May 9, 2011

A big plate of justice served


The Right Word
By Kelly Sloan

By the time this is printed, several days will have passed since the long-awaited (and well-aimed) demise of Osama Bin Laden. Sufficient time will have passed for the initial euphoric reactions to be replaced by a degree of circumspection, tempered as always by a flurry of unanswered questions, theories, and analyses.

The event is an undeniably good thing for America and the war effort. Osama Bin Laden will not be missed, not by the civilized world at any rate; he had come to personify evil, terror and mass murder, ranking among history's worst.

He was a key enemy of the United States in particular, and of Western civilization in general; the titular head and spiritual leader of an organization whose sole reason for being was to bring as much death and suffering as possible to the innocent civilian populations of the western world, in pursuit of a perverted geo-theo-political vision — a goal which culminated in the not-so-distant horrors of 9/11.

On the night of May 1st, U.S. Navy SEALS, acting again as America's fist, landed a hard, direct blow. The bullet drilled into the heart (forehead actually) of darkness was one of the most worthy shots ever fired.

President Obama deserves due credit for the successful operation; he is after all, the commander in chief, and it was on his watch, and his word, that the exceptionally skilled operators carried out the mission. For continuing to prosecute the war, and the pursuit of Bin Laden, and for giving the military the green light to do what they do best, the president ought to receive his due.

It also ought to be recognized that, in spite of his oddly gratuitous and egocentric speech announcing the mission's outcome, that he did not do it alone. He played his part, yes; but the CIA and other intelligence professionals who collected, analyzed and disseminated the information locating OBL; the military staffs who conceived and finalized the plan; and the shooters, pilots and support troops who executed it with such perfection are the brightest stars in the constellation that makes this story. And as painful as it may be for most on the left, President Bush's vital contribution should not be ignored.

It is true that Bin Laden was not killed or captured on Bush's watch — but it is just as true that Bush initiated the policies that ultimately led to this triumphant moment. Obama's credit lies in continuing those policies.

As the smoke from the raid disperses, several questions linger; the most profound ones revolve around Pakistan. It appears that Pakistani authorities were not informed of the mission, and they have been deafeningly silent about the incursion on their territory. They also have not said much about how America's prime enemy managed to hide in plain sight in a prominent compound less than a mile from the gates of the main military academy. The U.S. obviously needs to re-evaluate their policies, and military and diplomatic arrangements regarding Pakistan, going forward.

So what is forward? First, a clear recognition that the war is not over is vital. Wise heads need to advise Obama of this and convince him that a realistic, long-term strategy needs to be developed and applied. Obama has not demonstrated much aptitude for this; he was brought along kicking and screaming into accepting, reluctantly, the wisdom of the Bush policies which climactically resulted in the neutralization of OBL. It is not natural for him, and his tendency will be, following this tactical victory, to revert to form, adopt a myopic view, declare the war over, and reverse the gains made over the last 10 years. This would be a tragic mistake.

The war is on terrorism; not Bin Laden, not even Al Qaeda. It is a war on the idea that political aims can be advanced by deliberately and wantonly targeting civilians, the most innocent, and soft targets. The death of one of the most notorious and prominent merchants of that idea is a welcome and important tactical victory, especially considering the direct link to the worst attack on civilians on American soil in history, but it is just that. The war is wider, and commands a long-term, comprehensive view.

President Bush, whatever other faults he may have harbored, understood that. Let's hope that this spark of leadership Obama showed last Sunday means he does as well.

This article first appeared in the Grand Junction Free Press, Friday May 5, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

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