Monday, May 2, 2011

Now that Bin Laden in dead, what's next?

Nearly every American hailed the news late Sunday evening that American Special Forces had killed Osama Bin Laden in a raid on his safe house in Pakistan.

Democrats, Republicans, Tea Parties, Greens, independents, we were all brought together in a way that we really haven't been since 9/11 itself.

That excludes a few, who in the tradition of 9/11 "truthers" and "birthers," decided that the Osama had not really been killed and that it was all an elaborate political hoax. I dub this new crop of morons "deathers." I'm sure we'll hear a lot from them in the next couple of years.

For those of us grounded in reality, the question becomes, what's next? What effect does justice finally catching up with the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have on the world?

Well, from a crass political perspective it probably makes it more likely that President Barack Obama is re-elected in 2012. The odds had been leaning that way anyway, given the lack of a popular challenger on the Republican side. Even Republicans don’t seem enamored with their likely candidates.

With Obama having corrected the largest failing of both his and his predecessor's administrations, he'll see a surge in his poll numbers. However, military success doesn't always lead to re-election. If it did, the first President Bush would have been re-elected in the wake of Desert Storm.

The details of Bin Laden's capture -- he was found in a more than $1 million compound in a wealthy suburb of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad that  U.S. sources described it as an area where numerous retired Pakistani military officers lived -- are troubling. The compound was built in 2005, apparently to house Bin Laden.

Those facts make it almost unthinkable that the Pakistani government, which has taken billions of dollars in U.S. "anti-terrorism" assistance and was officially our "ally" in the war on terror, knew where he was hiding and didn't tell us.

That suggests the need for, at the least, a re-thinking of our relationship with Pakistan. That re-thinking may have begun when we didn't inform them of the operation against Bin Laden until it was over.

In a larger sense, the end of Osama Bin Laden could well mean it's time to re-think our entire Afghanistan deployment.

It may even be time to question if the era of the "War on Terror" is over.

We went into Afghanistan to get Bin Laden.

We invaded the country after the Taliban government refused to turn him over. And we had every right to do that.

The other part of our mission was to destroy the ability of Al Qaeda to launch terrorist attacks on the West.

Indications are that we've been pretty successful at that. With drone attacks and U.S. forces on the ground we've killed the "#3 man in Al Qaeda" so many times it's surprising anyone would accept a promotion to that post any more. We've seriously degraded Al Qaeda’s ability to communicate with or control operatives abroad.

That can be seen in the amateurish level of the attacks the group can take credit for since 9/11.

But somehow our mission in Afghanistan has shifted. Now, we care about keeping the Taliban from returning to power and we talk about wanting to build a viable country there.

Afghanistan had 5,000 years to become a non-failed state before we went there and the Afghanis have consistently and ferociously fought off that threat. Look, compared to their hatred of centralized government, our Tea Partiers are avid New Dealers. .

It's time to let the people of Afghanistan get back to ruining their own country, just as we've begun to get out of Iraq, even though it likely collapses into sectarian chaos once we leave. They'll work it out on their own time, probably by separating into the tribal factions that represent the real countries there better than some lines drawn through the sand by some Europeans in the Age of Empires.

It's not our problem.

What is our problem?

Taking our country and our civil liberties back.

In the wake of 9/11, the United States instituted security measures to make sure that "another 9/11" didn't happen.

Ironically, we easily solved that problem. A simple, relatively cheap solution that didn't violate anyone's constitutional rights or subject granny to being felt up by TSA mall cops, a solution that we should have thought of 25 years earlier, insured that there could never be "another 9/11." We put bulletproof doors on airliner cockpits and locked the cockpits doors during flight.

That's all it took. That ended the "hijack the plane and crash it into something" threat forever.

Nobody’s really tried to hijack a plane since. Instead they've tried to blow them up.

While I realize this would be little comfort to the victims in the exploded plane or their families, that limits the possible loss of life to the passenger and crew. Which limits the gesture's effectiveness as a terrorist attack.

Think how we were riveted to our television screens when the Twin Towers fell. That's what terrorists want. A plane blows up? That just makes people in the West angry without sending any big symbolic message to the world.

It's also worth noting that the two highest-profile plane bombers -- the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber -- were apprehended by passengers. They weren't stopped by the TSA goon squad, which in nearly ten years is responsible for preventing exactly zero acts of terrorism.

The TSA is just one element of our huge overreaction to the threat of "International Radical Muslim Terrorism."

We've okayed wireless searches, torture, extraordinary rendition, holding people for years without trials and suspended the presumption of innocence for every air traveler. In the name of American Exceptionalism we've done a lot of things that make us less exceptional.

When we look back on these things in 50 years, we'll regret them, the way we regret the internment of the Japanese during World War II or Jim Crow. We'll regret them the way we always regret it when we let fear compromise our ideals.

That's why I say, now that the terrorist mastermind is dead, it's a good time for us to take back our country.

This is America. We beat the Nazis without revoking the Sixth Amendment.

This is America. We beat the Soviet Union, which had the power to destroy the world, without letting rent-a-cops grope our citizens.

This is America. The most powerful nation on earth with a military larger than the next several countries combined.

This is America, and a few religious fanatics with a 10th-century mindset do not pose an existential threat to this country.

To the extent that there are threats in the world -- rogue nations with, or close to achieving nuclear weapons, a few under armed thugs who may try to avenge Bin Laden's death -- let us meet them with the courage that we've always shown in the past.

It's time for the fear to end. Because terrorists can only win if we are terrorized.

Cross posted to All Politics Is Local

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