But beyond the emotional fulfillment that comes from vengeance and retributive justice, there are two points worth considering. The first is the question of what, if anything, is going to change as a result of the two bullets in Osama bin Laden’s head? Are we going to fight fewer wars or end the ones we’ve started? Are we going to see a restoration of some of the civil liberties which have been eroded at the alter of this scary Villain Mastermind? Is the War on Terror over? Are we Safer now?
Those are rhetorical questions. None of those things will happen. If anything, I can much more easily envision the reverse. Whenever America uses violence in a way that makes its citizens cheer, beam with nationalistic pride, and rally around their leader, more violence is typically guaranteed. Futile decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may temporarily dampen the nationalistic enthusiasm for war, but two shots to the head of Osama bin Laden — and the We are Great and Good proclamations it engenders — can easily rejuvenate that war love. One can already detect the stench of that in how Pakistan is being talked about: did they harbor bin Laden as it seems and, if so, what price should they pay? We’re feeling good and strong about ourselves again — and righteous — and that’s often the fertile ground for more, not less, aggression.
In sum, a murderous religious extremist was killed. The U.S. has erupted in a collective orgy of national pride and renewed faith in the efficacy and righteousness of military force. Other than that, the repercussions are likely to be far greater in terms of domestic politics — it’s going to be a huge boost to Obama’s re-election prospects and will be exploited for that end — than anything else.
I don’t care about Osama bin Laden, and to be quite frank, I never really did. Anyone can kill 3000 people, but it takes a willing nation to kill 1,000,000. 9/11 did not introduce the world to just one monster, it was a day that created two. So don’t expect me to dance, or celebrate, I am not even going to smile. While one monster may have died, the other one still holds a knife to my back, a gun in my mouth, and collects my taxes.
. I hadn’t heard anything of this until this morning, when the usual morons at work started chortling about how “we got him.” I assumed they must mean Gaddafi, given that we’d just killed his son and grandchildren over the weekend. But eventually I figured it out, and after listening a little while longer in silence, I was struck by something: all they were doing was complaining.
Complaining about liberals. Complaining about people who “probably wanted him to have a trial so we could put him on probation. Maybe sit down and talk to him about his feelings.” Snort, haw, yuk yuk. Complaining about those liberals who are going to whine about how we have no right to be carrying out military activities inside Pakistan to begin with. Complaining that the NYT and WaPo didn’t have big bold screaming headlines about it despite holding up the press runs for an extra hour (due to their Islamist sympathies, you see). Complaining about all the people who are going to call America evil. Complaining about how Obama doesn’t deserve credit for doing what a six year-old could have figured out to do. Complaining about how, when attacked by all these bleeding-heart liberals for disrespecting Bin Laden’s human rights, Obama was “probably going to blame Bush somehow, you watch.” Sneering about Muslims in general who are probably wailing on their prayer rugs right now. Running their mouths about how liberals should be shot, or beaten in the streets.
This is how they celebrate something they’re happy about. With nothing immediate to complain about, they imagine what a bunch of liberal caricatures might think and say and proceed to complain all the more venomously about that. They’re really that addicted to the dubious joy of venting their neverending hatred of anyone who doesn’t belong to their resentful tribe. They simply don’t know what to do with themselves if they’re not twitching with rage over some intolerable affront to their worldview.
I’ve recollected before some Taoist passage, perhaps from the Hua Hu Ching, that talks about how, when faced with the occasional inevitability of lethal violence, to treat it as an occasion for mourning, sad that it should ever have to come to this, not something to take joy from. I thought of it again this morning, while simultaneously nauseated and pitying over how bitter, miserable, rancid and hateful these people are. I composed myself with a grimace and a shudder and left as quickly as I could. They can have their political and military victories if this is what it leads to. I’d rather spend my time thinking about all the things I have to be grateful for.