<fx: Ric holds up miniature American flag on a stick, and waves it, once, before the camera>
This is not in any way to take anything away from the guys who pulled it off, including the cubicle dwellers back at Langley and elsewhere who patiently put all the pieces together. It’s an amazing achievement, and they ought to drink free for the rest of their lives — not that the analysts will get to do that, or even be able to tell people they had anything to do with it. Remembering events almost exactly twenty-one years ago, the mechanics who made the helicopters work instead of going down with mechanical failures far from the objective also need to get some credit.
Nor is it an excess of sour grapes. If President Obama signed off on the operation — and he had to — he deserves kudos for doing something right. Had it gone wrong, it would’ve been another Operation Eagle Claw, and the President would be carrying the can for it.
But this is not a Superman comic or a Dick Tracy strip. Taking out the Villainous Kingpin will not cause the rest of Teh Organization to fall apart into a gaggle of ignorant, uncooperative goons to be rounded up by Our Boys in Blue. Osama bin Laden hasn’t been anywhere near the center of operations since Tora Bora, if not a year before that. Al Qaeda will go on as before, perhaps with a martyr to inspire them, perhaps not. As Stacy says, “…anyone who thinks this means the whole struggle is over is self-identifying as a rube.”
It is, perhaps, somewhat useful symbolically. But I have to disagree with Kate, and agree at least partially with Bene Diction. Islamists danced in the streets after 9/11/01; Americans are dancing in the streets at the death of the Bad Guy, out of the same emotions precisely. What it needs is an old-fashioned word: it’s unseemly. From time to time we have to kill bad guys, and doing so is a success to be lauded and celebrated, but such celebrations ought to be kept low-key. Necessary evils remain evil.
Symbolic gestures can be useful. If this inspires another Islamist leader to echo Qaddafi — “I am afraid of the Americans” — it might be a good thing. If it inspires the Pakistani Government to wonder if playing both ends against the middle can be dangerous, especially if Americans are holding one of the ends, well and good. But its primary effect will be, as intended, on US politics. For the next year and a half, if you bitch about $5 gas or try to suggest that appointing the BPP to monitor election fairness is a bad idea, the response will be “But Obama got bin Laden, and Bush couldn’t do that.”