Monday, May 2, 2011

Thoughts on the End of Osama

I have just quaffed my last shot of Paddy's Irish whiskey, purchased in Ireland, which I've been saving (since 2002!) for this very occasion. It's been confirmed that Osama bin Laden has --at long last-- been removed from the equation.

Some of my friends have been expressing unease about the celebratory frame with which we greet the death of another person, however ghastly his acts in this life. This disquiet is to their credit, in a broad, humanistic sense...I suppose.

After all,  we all begin as infants, seeking milk and warmth and comfort, innocent and without stain.

But those who grow to make it their life's work to deny these things to others have parted ways with the mass of humanity to whom very much empathy is owed. I am not unmindful of the loss at the heart of Osama's loss of heart. But nor am I inclined to shed a tear for the stilling of that cold, twisted organ.

The world is now a fractionally better place.
Some expressed discomfort with the 'eye-for-an-eye' quality of Osama's death, expressing a preference for a more New Testament approach to such things. Maybe it helps to think of this more as a "render unto Caesar" thing than an 'eye for an eye' thing. It is not mere vengeance nor even 'retributive justice' to end the life of one who actively and passionately strives to end the lives of others. As I said, a while back, whatever one's narrative of how it arises, the chilling subordination of essential human empathy to the merciless logic of ideology must be resisted with every sinew of our civilization, for the sake of civilization itself.

This was less an act of  'payback' than it was an immune response.
Some have voiced misgivings about the potential for retaliatory strikes, to avenge the death of  'the Emir.'  This is not a concern which is lightly brushed aside. It is a very real possibility. However, one of the few things for which I all-but-unreservedly give credit to this Administration in its otherwise feckless and incoherent foreign policy is the blistering tempo of operations --via drone strikes, primarily-- against the command structure of al Qaeda within Afghanistan and (arguably more importantly) Pakistan. The capacity of that organization to mount operations has been very severely degraded compared to its past capacity to project force. By no means can the will of al Qaeda to inflict retributive damage be discounted. However, the logistical and command-and-control capacities of that organization have been scrambled quite devastatingly. This is not to say that the "franchise operations" which have come terrifyingly close to snuffing out countless lives in recent years will not land a blow, which they will attribute to revenge for their fallen leader. But can anyone seriously argue that such strikes would not have been in the offing in any case? If anything, timetables may be accelerated to seize the occasion, thus providing more opportunities for critical, actionable errors and breaches of OPSEC.

It's been a while since OBL could realistically be called the head of the snake. But this is one mortal coil about whose shuffling off I have no qualms in hailing most heartily.

The whiskey, after all, did age most deliciously!

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