Monday, May 2, 2011
So the CIA finally managed to kill Osama bin Laden and, predictably, yahoos from across the country are celebrating as if we've won something. Indeed, the fact that thousands of Americans would celebrate the killing of an individual like bin Laden is indicative of the degree to which our country has been weakened over the past ten years.
Drawing the United States into expensive and destructive wars was bin Laden's goal, and he succeeded spectacularly. George W. Bush did exactly as bin Laden hoped, committing the United States to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that not only contributed to the loss of life of hundreds of thousands of people in those countries, but which also have cost the United States over a trillion dollars. Perhaps even worse, the president who was given a mandate for change in 2008 then committed us to four more years of bloody and counter-productive occupation in Afghanistan. The logic of foreign occupation and self-defeating war has now been accepted by the mainstream within both of our political parties. Bin Laden has died knowing that he's accomplished his goals in spades.
My advice to people who wish to celebrate the spilling of still more blood: curb your enthusiasm. If anything, the death of Osama bin Laden should prompt Americans to pause for a moment and reflect on the choices that have been made by our political leaders, and often supported by a majority of our citizens, since 2001. After the September 11 attacks, Americans were scared and we allowed ourselves to get talked into actions that have been extremely destructive for not only our country's finances but also its standing in the rest of the world. Osama bin Laden has, in fact, succeeded in weakening and terrorizing this country, and the policies of both W. and Obama have played into his hands. Now bin Laden is dead, but we're in much more dire shape than was the case on the eve of the September attacks.
This is nothing to celebrate. There is no victory here, and frankly it's embarrassing to see so many Americans celebrating death. This is not the behavior of a confident and strong population, but rather that of people who, after ten years of war and occupation, still seem frightened.
We need to get over our fears, and get beyond our addiction to intervening in the rest of the world. But mostly we need to realize that while bin Laden may have attacked us, we ourselves dug the hole we now find ourselves in.