Osama Bin-Laden is dead. Part of me is happy, because the man needed to pay for the crime against humanity that he orchestrated. Part of me is sad for reasons I cannot fully explain. Finally a third part of me wonders why the hell it took us damn near ten years to find a 6' 6" man who was on dialysis three days a week...
Upon news of Bin-Laden’s demise, the social networks of the Internet exploded. A great number of people were very much in the “YEAH!!!”, “WE GOT THE SOMBITCH!!!”, and “AMERICA! FUCK YEAH!” mode. As I watch all the commentary and stories about the event unfolding, I am quietly reminded of an old Chris Rock comedy routine. Specifically, I can draw parallels to the bit where Chris is talking about the whole O.J. Simpson trial fiasco. When the not guilty verdict for O.J. was handed down, the bulk of the African-American community was estatic… “Alright! We Won!!!” …to which Chris replies… “What’d we win? Every day I check the mail for my O.J. prize. Nothing!”
So, Bin-Laden is dead. This gives some closure to the families of the people who perished in the 9-11 tragedy, and grants value to the lives given by American soldiers who died waging the so-called “war on terror”, and for that fact alone, I am grateful that we finally did track him down and end his life. The thought that troubles me though is, with Osama’s death, what happens now? Where do we go from here? It's not like all terrorism in the world will magically go away. He left an impact on the world that we will never ever be able to erase. Osama, if nothing else, taught us that we must always be vigilant.
That vigilance comes with a price, though. A price that we continuously pay with money, resources, manpower, and sometimes people’s lives. All of those currencies could have been used to better effect than fighting a war against a concept we cannot kill. Education… Health Care… Lowering the deficit… Any of those would have been a better use of the resources we spent in ten years trying to track down one man.
And now that Osama Bin-Laden is dead, I ask “What’d we win?” The only thing we won was the short-term feeling of pride at finally accomplishing a job we’ve been trying to finish for ten years. In the long-term, we’re going right back to that feeling of looking-over-our-shoulders dread that was prevalent for the first couple of years after 9-11. We’re going to wonder who is going to fill the void that we created, and will that person be as much, if not more, of a threat to our security than the man we just killed. These are very much real considerations.
I won’t lie, though. Originally, when 9-11 happened, I was as fiery and as passionate as any other American. I was firmly in the camp of turning Afghanistan into a sheet of glass in order to dissuade other so-called terrorists from taking action against us. There is no kill like overkill.
As I’ve gotten older and matured, I’ve come to the conclusion that that sort of thinking is very short-term and knee-jerk reactionary. By making us afraid of him… by making us pour money, resources, and manpower down an ever-deepening hole… by making us change how we lived our lives… Osama Bin-Laden and al-Qaeda won… and we let him. As a country, we let our passion, our patriotism, and our pride get in the way of the big picture. We effectively paid attention to petulant children, and gave them power over us.
If we had responded by mourning our dead, and then returning to as close to normal as we could with our lives, I believe we would have made a bigger statement. A statement that said something like…
“Okay… you got us. We accept that. But we are not going to let you dictate who we are and how we live. We’re still going to fly… we’re going to pursue business and political opportunities that are advantageous to us… we’re going to keep being proud of ourselves, proud of what we have accomplished, and proud of what we are accomplishing on a daily basis. We are not going to be baited into a conflict where there can and will be no clear victor. However, when the opportunity presents itself because you, Osama Bin-Laden, will eventually make a mistake, and then we will jack you up… but we’ll do it on our terms, not yours. Have a nice fucking day… Signed, the United States of America.”