Monday, May 02, 2011

The Great Exhale

Osama bin Laden is dead. Yesterday, I said there was little to say. Today, a few scattered thoughts come below, of varying degrees of seriousness.

* * *

* Last night, everyone was rushing to make grand strategic pronouncements about the implications of killing Bin Laden. Is the War on Terror over? Can we leave Afghanistan (or Iraq) now? Will al-Qaeda strike back stronger than before? I feel like everyone needs to take a deep breath about this, because for most of these questions the only answer is: time will tell.

* Count me in the "pro-celebration" camp. I don't think it is unseemly to celebrate a great American victory, anymore than it was inappropriate to celebrate on V-J Day. Somebody claimed it was "unseemly" for Americans to be acting like we just won the World Cup. I kind of think that killing one of the great terrorist masterminds of the world is a little less frivolous a reason for celebration than winning a soccer match.

* Folks who don't believe Osama is really dead will henceforth be known as "deathers".

* While most folks (across the political spectrum) were on their best behavior last night, there were a few grump-o-sauruses. Spot the differences between the far-right message board nuts, and the Jihadi message board nuts!

* Poll-wise, the CW seems to be "remember George H.W. Bush, who had rocket-high approvals at this point in his presidency due to a major foreign policy victory (winning the Gulf War)." The point is that a bad economy can still take down an incumbent, even one flush with success. Very true, but I want to push back a little. First, I think this is a symbolically bigger deal even than the Gulf War, though maybe that's just a lack of perspective talking. But more importantly, something like this can overcome some polling inertia, starting Obama from a higher base. If the economy tanks, he's still toast. But if the economy is simply "meh", it might not be enough to budge Obama's numbers either way. If, as appears, the trend of the economy is going to be slow improvement going into 2012 -- not enough to set off celebrations, but enough to stem serious electoral bleeding -- this could be a major difference.

* Once I heard Bin Laden wasn't killed by a drone strike but through a human operation resulting in a firefight, I immediately started wondering which video game would make this into a mission first. Seems to fit the Rainbow 6 oeuvre best to me.

* One of the better one-liners I read: "The guy who killed Bin Laden is going to get laid way more than 72 times.

* Another thing folks pointed out -- Obama knew about the operation during the White House Correspondent's Dinner (but obviously didn't know how it would turn out). Cool as the other side of the pillow.

* Meet the guy who accidentally live-tweeted the Bin Laden operation.

* Hamas condemns Bin Laden killing, Palestinian Authority praises it.

* Rep. Peter King (R-NY), whom I typically dislike, was impressively magnanimous -- when being interviewed by CNN, the anchors started talking about how this was a great accomplishment for Robert Gates and Leon Panetta as well as President Obama. Which is true, but Rep. King observed that if this operation went wrong, nobody would be talking about Gates and Panetta, but the Commander in Chief. Which means that since it went right, same rules apply.

* So in the same spirit of bipartisanship, I'll leave you with the words of Mike Huckabee: "Welcome to Hell, Bin Laden."


Esquiver said...

If ending his activities turns out to be more than symbolic, which I'm questioning, then of course I'm happy, but I'm finding it disquieting to have so much celebration of death. Seems a short slide from here to public executions and related forms of entertainment.

PG said...

Similar to Esquiver's point, would you really find it entirely seemly and appropriate for the families who attend the executions of the convicted criminals who murdered their loved ones, once they've left the execution chamber, to be shouting "Woo hoo!" and setting off fireworks? Obviously if they approve of the death penalty, they should be glad this justice was done, but it's not like Our Team won one against Their Team.

V-J Day celebrated the end of a war. Not to sound like the morons (or at least talking heads who believe their audience members are morons) on the news, but bin Laden's death does not end any war. We'll stay on the same schedule for withdrawing from Iraq. Afghanistan has no end in sight. We're part of a NATO operation in Libya that no one's even tried to justify by connecting to al Qaeda. The boys and girls aren't coming home.

David Schraub said...

I think the sense of accomplishment is greater with respect to Bin Laden, who had eluded us for so long. The celebration isn't about the death per se, it's about the victory -- if we had captured him instead of killing him, I expect the celebration would have been very similar. And I can certainly imagine a big celebration if we had caught a mass murder who was terrorizing a community. It's cathartic.

Esquiver said...

Yeah, but we *didn't* capture him instead of killing him, which is the difference between jubilation and bloodlust when both eventualities elicit the same response. And, face it, David: when PG and I actually agree on something, it's worth taking a second look at how thunderously right it must be.

David Schraub said...

I did pause to marvel at the incongruity of it. OBL's death apparently did bring everyone together (and isn't that a cause for celebration?).

PG said...

And I can certainly imagine a big celebration if we had caught a mass murder who was terrorizing a community. It's cathartic.

Having been living in the DC area when they *did* catch two mass murderers who'd been terrorizing the community, I can't say I remember any big celebrations of the type that happened Sunday night ( As I recall, it was mostly just a huge sense of relief that we no longer were entering and exiting doorways at a zigzag and having to sit in our cars while getting gas.

Andrew said...

I'll start by noting that I was the guy who wrote the World Cup unseemliness comment. I think chanting "USA! USA!" is substantively equivalent to PG's comment about setting off fireworks. I understand the desire to see justice done, but it is a somber justice, if we can really call it justice at all.

The comparison to V-J day, as I generally referred to in my post, is really quite off base. There, as PG said, a war ended - there is cause to celebrate. This was an execution. (I don't mean legally - no due process, but we're at war, blah blah.) That we would celebrate this execution in the streets is precisely why we still have the death penalty in this country.

I would high five someone about catching a serial killer on the loose more than this, because catching the serial killer stops the murder. This is nothing but symbolic death, and it's not even being claimed as more.