Monday, May 9, 2011

Osama Is Dead: Now What?

So, Obama has finally done it.  He authorized the raid by Navy SEALs in Pakistan that finally killed Osama Bin Laden only a week ago now, and I do not think it is hyperbole to say that the game has changed now.  But, now what?  After ten years, two wars we obviously did not need, hours and hours of torture of Guantanamo detainees that mostly led to no provably useful intelligence (even though various Bush administration apologists would beg to differ), and thousands dead on both sides it does beg the question, did we really need the last decade to unfold exactly as it did to achieve the end we now have?

No.  No matter how much people like Dick Cheney (who never ceases to grace us with his presence at times like these, from beyond the grave even), Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo and others in the Bush administration want to spin this and somehow take belated credit, the policies they advanced and directives they acted upon were complete unnecessary bullshit.  Obama has exposed this, even as he continues a lot of the same failed policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We didn’t need to throw the Constitution in the garbage with things like the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretaps, holding people (including juveniles) for years without trial in Cuba and torturing them to get information that was largely bogus anyway.  We definitely did not need the thousands upon thousands killed, both among the ranks of our military and the many civilians killed overseas.  I won’t even mention the thousands more of our people that are no longer productive members of society anymore, whether it is due to a traumatic physical injury or a traumatic mental injury.  This was a giant mess we did not need, and the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of George Bush, Dick Cheyney, Donald Rumsfeld and all the rest of the Bush administration.  We did not need two wars and thousands dead just to kill one man.  We needed one surgical, covert strike.
So where do we go from here?  If Obama has any sense at all, hopefully it means our immediate and total withdraw from both Iraq and Afghanistan.  I realize that we have “drawn down” our troops significantly in Iraq over the last year or so but we had no business going there in the first place.  It was wrong then, and it becomes more and more wrong the longer our troops are there.  Obama should not perpetuate Bush’s revenge fantasies any longer.
Afghanistan should be a no-brainer.  One superpower already got stuck in that quagmire and now we are the other.  Our stated mission in invading Afghanistan in the first place was to unseat the Taliban in a greater effort to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice.  The Taliban part then, at the outset, was merely a means to an end.  The fact that they continue to stick around, consolidate power, and occasionally gain territory, should be irrelevant to us.  We got the bad guy.  Now we need to leave.  Let these people fight it out among themselves. 
The second reason we should leave Afghanistan is one related to practical concerns.  How do we run a war, transport troops back and forth, get supplies inside Afghanistan, when we do not know if we can rely on a military presence in Pakistan any longer?  They were likely harboring Osama Bin Laden right under our noses even as they professed their allegiance to our cause, and now in the aftermath of his death, they’re crying foul for us essentially conducting a unilateral military raid within their sovereign territory.  I say this relationship is going to deteriorate, and quickly.  Pakistan has a lot to answer for, and I think right now they think the same about us, so this may get ugly.  If we need to enter some sort of “cold war” with Pakistan to cease operations in Afghanistan then I am all for it, as long as it means less combat troops overseas.  These wars need to end.
Obama scored a major political victory in ordering the raid that finally killed Osama.  How he handles what comes next, I think, will determine his political future in 2012 and his legacy beyond that.  Will he continue the wrong-headed approach of Bush and send troops to Afghanistan and Iraq to die for nothing, especially since we caught the main guy we were after?  Or will he extract us from these quagmires once and for all?  Whether he is elected President again in 2012 likely depends on him doing the latter.  I for one will not even consider giving him my vote unless that is in fact what he does, and no one else should either.

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