The announcement that a DEVGRU unit (aka Navy SEAL Team 6) found and killed Osama bin Laden elicited a variety of responses from Americans.
For the most part, the responses indicated great satisfaction — in many cases, the news prompted jubilation and celebration.
There were, however, some people who expressed dissatisfaction, decrying the violent death of anyone, even a sworn enemy. Some quoted the poet Donne, indicating the death of any man diminishes us all.
We to the contrary, are not diminished. At all. The enduring, negative aspect of our species’ behavior is no mystery to us, and bin Laden earned his end.
The man trumpeted his terrorist intent — a coward’s fight. He reveled in the death of thousands of innocent Americans at the World Trade Center and in U.S. embassy bombings. Moreover, he and his followers murdered many more people of his own faith in an attempt to create a caliphate to rule hundreds of millions with a medieval regime. He promised more innocents would die and his followers continue to foment destruction throughout the world. He sought to obtain weapons of mass destruction to use on foes — particularly the U.S.
The ire he inspired caught up to him.
While his death does not diminish us or cause us the least amount of grief, it does give us pause to consider the justifiable anger that propelled our decade-long search and destruction of an evil man.
In noting the desire for retribution on the part of Americans, we must also note an equally legitimate desire for retribution can exist in places other than America. Because of America. And we can hope the reasons for such feelings are curtailed in many cases, with better options put in place.
With the death of bin Laden, we believe there is an opportunity to evaluate and adjust the way our country operates in the world. Like it or not, we have made mistakes. War is sometimes unavoidable; it should always be the final option.
As an example: How many lives have been lost in a war in Iraq that, with a series of flimsy reasons, proved hollow and destructive — a situation in which other means could, arguably, have produced change. We found no weapons of mass destruction. We found no clear links with terrorism. We have not instilled a harmonious, democratic state or managed to overcome longstanding tribal conflicts. Our invasion cost nearly 4,500 American lives and tens of thousands of injured, an estimated 150,000-plus Iraqi lives, and more than $3 trillion — a major factor in bankrupting our treasury.
The reason we went to war in Afghanistan was to destroy bin Laden and cripple his organization. We have lost more than 1,500 troops in the effort and spent more than $400 billion. The leader of al Queda is dead, the president of Afghanistan belittles us, Pakistan cheats us, the Afghan people suffer. It is time to leave.
While bin Laden and Al Queda’s intent of destroying “puppet” regimes in the Middle East has proven senseless in the wake of the ongoing Arab Spring, so has our determination to change leadership and systems via military intervention. It is better to build schools, encourage the creation of businesses and healthy market economies, to foster a situation in which, as one columnist noted, with education, a job and prospects for genuine political involvement, there is no need for a young man to strap explosives to the body and look forward to virgins in the afterlife.
We need to do things differently now, whenever and wherever possible.
In the meantime, it’s mighty nice to have SEAL Team 6 on our side.