Naturally, the internet is atwitter. These are some of the more interesting items I’ve seen in the past 12 hours.
- ABC News has the aerials. A bunch of different pictures of Bin Laden’s mansion/hideout, including a lot of details about different fence heights in different parts of the compound. I.e., this almost certainly came from the military itself.
- Foreign Policy has a nice summary of the intelligence collection that led to the raid.
- Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic called the Pakistani ambassador to get his comment on why the ISI didn’t realize Bin Laden was hiding out in a giant compound close to the Pakistani military academy. The ambassador responded with a pretty spectacular excuse: American cops can’t find Mafiosi like Whitey Bulger hiding in the American civilian population, so why should you expect us to be able to find Bin Laden? Which I think just goes to show that foreigners know a hell of a lot more about American history than Americans do. Because how many of us can name a famous Pakistani gangster? Unfortunately, though, for the ambassador’s thesis, Bulger was last seen in London in 2002. He’s not living in an enormous walled compound near an FBI retirement community in Arlington.
- Reuters is quoting an unnamed “national security official” as saying that the team that went after Bin Laden was ordered to kill, not capture. Oh, Unnamed Official! Is there nothing you won’t say?
- Radley Balko thinks that despite our killing him, Bin Laden got the last laugh, because he tricked us into giving up our civil liberties and running up catastrophic debt and getting involved in several civil wars in Africa and central Asia.
Yes, bin Laden the man is dead. But he achieved all he set out to achieve, and a hell of a lot more. He forever changed who we are as a country, and for the worse. Mostly because we let him. That isn’t something a special ops team can fix.
- Christopher Hitchens manages to spell out everything that was nasty and contemptible about Bin Laden without using the occasion as an opportunity to engage in more justification of the Iraq war, which I think is very decent of him.
- Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) may be directing the inevitable movie version. Literally can’t think of anyone who’d do a better job.
- Finally, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross (again in Foreign Policy) correctly notes that Al-Qaeda and its successor organizations have successfully absorbed Bin Laden’s great strategic observations: that the war against the American superpower would be largely a war of public perception, and that you could force a giant to bleed itself dry, economically, with ever-increasing security spending, if only you could make it perceive a hidden, omnipresent threat. But for some reason Gartenstein-Ross uses that information to conclude that America shouldn’t think the War on Terror is over.
Whereas I draw the opposite conclusion: knowing that this is primarily an information campaign on AQ’s part, we should absolutely refuse to see ourselves as engaged in an epic struggle with “terror,” or even “Al-Qaeda,” for exactly the reasons Radley Balko outlines in the above-linked piece. We should consider the steps we take to undermine and eliminate terrorist organizations police work rather than “a war.” Police work is steady, daily, thoughtful, and cost-effective. A war, being a response to an existential threat, is both sentimental and unlimited in the resources it uses. Even with Bin Laden dead, it’s still possible to give him what he wants… if we’re still willing to give him a war.