Observations on the Death of Bin Laden

  • Seen on Facebook: “rm -rf /bin/laden”. It’s a Unix joke. It’s OK to pretend to laugh.
  • I find it interesting that Bin Laden was killed on Holocaust Remembrance Day, and just a day or so off from the anniversary of when Adolph Hitler committed suicide. It was also 8 years to the day after Pres. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech.
  • There are those who expect the war in Afghanistan to end immediately. I don’t. Remember how long the war in Europe continued after Hitler’s death. There are still some pockets of Al Qaeda resistance to be cleaned out, plus we need to leave in such a way that the country remains stable. It will probably speed up the exit process, though.
  • Reading comments in the news-o-sphere, there are folks who do not believe Bin Laden is actually dead. They need to see the body themselves (and, presumably, the long-form death certificate). Bin Laden was supposedly buried at sea, reportedly in accordance with the Islamic tradition of quick burial, so that won’t happen (and even that burial at sea is upsetting some Islamic scholars), so there will likely be a “cult” that forms who believes this never happened. These can join the similar cults of the folks who believe the moon landing was faked and Obama was born in Kenya. It boggles my mind how there are some people who insist on personally seeing evidence for these types of events (Obama’s birth certificate, the moon landing, Bin Laden’s death), and truly disbelieve any evidence provided, and yet many of them are perfectly willing to believe that the miraculous stories of the Bible are, so to speak, the Gospel truth, with no equivalently strong physical evidence.
  • Last night, at around 740p, while we were waiting for the announcement and the news hadn’t yet leaked out about what the announcement was about, I turned to the friends we had over and said, “You know, the only thing I think this could be about is that they killed Osama”. Less than a minute later, the news was leaked. I also have the ability to walk by whatever old movie is playing on the TV and identify it. I guess that ability and a bank loan will get me a tank of gas.
  • There appears to be an intense debate whether Obama gets the credit for this. I think he should, just as he would have gotten the blame had Osama evaded capture during Obama’s term in office. Bush got the blame for not capturing him, potentially unjustifiably. People forget that’s why CEOs get the big bucks: just as they are unjustifiably given the credit when a company does well, they get the blame when something bad happens.
  • In light of these events, I think the question can legitimately be asked: So is the world now safer that Bin Laden is dead? I think the answer is “no”; in fact, it is arguably less safe in the short term, given the prospects of retaliation. Given the nature of terrorist organizations in general, and Al Qaeda in particular, there’s always going to be someone to fill-in the crazy kook leader power vacuum. Further, the greatest terrorist threat comes not from the terrorist organizations and people that you know, but the organizations and people that you don’t know.

    Is the death of Bin Laden a good thing? Ah, a different question. It is a good thing for America, in that it demonstrates American resolve and that we can complete an operation. Just as the failure in Vietnam and the long time it took to find Saddam hurt American’s international prestige, this is one factor the helps to rebuild it. It also demonstrates that our intelligence apparatus can work (and work together), which is a good thing for the hardworking people that support those operations. Far too often we’re quick to commend those who take the military action, and forget the analysts and operatives behind the action that made it a success.

    Is this a good thing for the world? Again, I think so, in that a significant symbol has been lost. This event demonstrates to those that work against terrorism that success is possible if you keep working at it. Unfortunately, just as with the people who don’t believe anything the government says (see above), this will just reinforce to the terrorists how wrong America is. We killed innocents in the attack; we buried him without respect for Islam—whatever the excuse—and mind you, it is just an excuse (just as the whole birth certificate controversy was an excuse)—it will be used to try and motivate the anger against the West. That’s the dangerous part, but the danger exists no matter what we do. It is our mere existance that is the thorn in the side of these organizations.