Last night’s news that U.S. forces had brought Osama bin Laden to justice is a tribute to the bravery, training, and professionalism of the armed forces of the United States and to its intelligence gatherers. The stunning success they pulled off, after months of preparation, and the precision with which they carried out their mission resulted, in part, from wise, strategic, and, in some cases, costly investments in a strong military. Their ability to carry out this most difficult of tasks should give pause to those who look to the Pentagon as a “cash cow” through which deficits might be reduced in a “painless” way. Cuts can and should be made, but with great care.
This weekend’s dramatic events also demonstrate that, contrary to what has been much reported, a strong American military, when wisely and rightly used, can be force for good and make for a more stable world. Muammar Qadhafi must be shaking in his boots right now—if he can find them after recent bombings of his palace. [See photos of reactions to Osama bin Laden's death.]
For the families of those who perished on 9/11, this brings the closure they so much sought. For those who still carry wounds from that day, it will help the healing along—hopefully at an accelerated pace. Those who continue to wish the United States, its allies, and all they hold dear ill, were reminded that Americans will look after its own, see value in all of its people, and keep promises it makes.
On the diplomatic front, the United States has an opportunity to mentor, when asked, emerging new democracies in the Middle East and elsewhere. It should continue to reach out to Pakistan, accept its manifestations of support, but continue to reserve the right of Americans to protect the interests of Americans everywhere.
President Barack Obama showed a rare and much appreciated side of himself to the American people last night. He did much more than deliver the best speech of his presidency and prove a strong and competent commander in chief. He revealed something of his character. [See a transcript of Obama's speech on bin Laden death.]
Aware that the final battle against bin Laden was being planned and waged, Obama went through what had to have been a most atypical routine—even for presidents—without showing signs of stress, anguish, or discomfort. History will show that his schedule included but another week of the “birther business,” an appearance on Oprah, a visit to flood-torn Alabama, and a much anticipated and widely viewed presentation before the White House Correspondents’ Association. The Kennedys used to talk about “grace under pressure.” I call it “class.” (We now know what really keeps Obama up at night.)
Another man who deserves the thanks of a grateful nation is former President George W. Bush. He, too, came to office inexperienced in international and world affairs. But he spoke confidently and courageously to the world about the values that made the United States a great and just nation. This weekend, the military carried out that promise in his name. This time, they really should hang a sign proclaiming, “Mission Accomplished, Mr. President.” [See a slide show of six potential terrorist targets.]
As others have well noted, the death of bin Laden will not mark the end of the “war against terrorism” (or whatever they are calling it these days). But, to turn what Churchill once said a bit on its head, it is the “beginning” of that end.