The attack in Abbotabad that removed Osama once and for all constitutes an act of war by our government that I consider morally justified and strategically useful. It is different from antiseptic drone attacks along the AfPak border (which I’ve opposed in a previous essay), that may or may not remove second or third echelon Taliban leaders, while inflicting inevitable “collateral damage”. Bin Laden was the top leader of a loose collection of terrorist bands dedicated to doing us harm. His removal may lead to fragmentation in the ranks of his followers and to some kind of leadership struggle. Unlike the drone attacks it is unlikely to cause us more pain in the long run than gain. It was a pukka military action carried out in a way that does credit to our armed services.
I find it interesting that our administration is leading right off with a fairly detailed account of how our clever intelligence operatives, without any explicit help from the Pakistanis, uncovered the secret of where and how they found out where Osama has been hiding, and how they yanked him out from a house right next to a military cantonment while their soldiers were off drinking tea someplace. It’s a case of the lady protesting too much. So be it. If our public stance denies Pakistani involvement, and thereby helps the government of Pakistan and the ISI get off the hook, why not?
But just between us, it is simply not credible that the Pakistani authorities had the guy right under their noses all these years without knowing about him. It is far more credible that Osama was a ward of the state, being held as a wild card, to play when it might become most advantageous. I consider it plausible that his wardens had gradually come to the conclusion that for various reasons the time had come to let his enemies have him. I’ve seen a theory that there may have been an understanding at a high level that we might show our gratitude at collaring bin Laden by pulling a little less crosswise against the ISI in our influence over Karzai’s negotiations with the Taliban. Speculative, but there are a lot of wheels within wheels in the region these days, and if that was not the deal then there may have been something equally complex.
Never mind. It’s been a long time since the American public had much in the way of good news from that part of the world. It’s almost gotten to where we don’t recognize it any more. Relax, fellow citizens, this is a good thing. And enjoy.