03 May 2011

bin Laden: post-mortem

Literally and figuratively, a post-mortem following the death of OBL:

1. There is no limit to the incredible power and razor-sharp precision of the American military.

2. This is the biggest achievement of Barack Obama's presidency.

3. Donald Trump begins the week with egg on his face and all over his five-dollar haircut. While the president was answering silly questions about his birth certificate last week, he was apparently finalizing the groundwork of the raid that killed bin Laden. Obama comes away looking presidential, and Trump leaves looking like -- as usual -- a clown.

4. As we've written here before, any implication that Obama is somehow "weak on terror" is patently false and has no basis in fact. In addition to ordering the capture or killing of bin Laden, he ordered a troop surge in Afghanistan, refused to close Guantanamo Bay, proffered absurd theories of executive power under the state secrets privilege, ordered the assassinations of American citizens abroad and denied basic constitutional protections to the Wikileaks mole. These activities are either continuations or extensions of existing Bush policies. In nearly all cases -- with the exception of Afghanistan -- they are also unconstitutional and/or illegal.

5. During the 2008 campaign, Obama stated in no uncertain terms that he would order American troops into Pakistan to track down OBL. He kept his word.

6. In response, John McCain criticized Obama's desire to infringe on Pakistan's sovereignty. By implication, if McCain was president, bin Laden would still be alive.

7. The fact that bin Laden was hiding just 40 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, in a private residence several times bigger than any home within miles -- and had been doing so since at least August 2010 -- is troubling. Pakistan is a repressive police state and its intelligence service is virtually omnipotent. It is very, very hard to believe that high-ranking officials in the Pakistani government weren't aware of bin Laden's presence.

8. Therefore, the fact that the CIA flagged this particular home as a possible hideout -- without any help from Pakistan whatsoever -- speaks to both the skill and resourcefulness of the CIA and the suspiciousness with which we should view the Pakistani leadership.

9. Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was very critical of the American effort to kill OBL, as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty. This was somewhat surprising, as Musharraf's rule was marked by consistent cooperation in the US-Pakistan relationship. Musharraf was the victim of multiple assassination attempts for his cooperation with America. I would think that -- especially given the fact that Musharraf nearly lost his life for his relationship with America -- the current Pakistani leadership would deserve at least a passing rebuke for letting bin Laden sit under their noses for months, if not years.

10. I genuinely hope that bin Laden's death will begin a national discussion on what precisely we are doing in Afghanistan, whether there is a tangible, realistic endgame, and whether the United States should be engaged in such nation-building. While bin Laden's death changes very little about the nature of the current conflict, perhaps it will push popular opinion toward a withdrawal.

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