sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

May 4, 2011

What Now?

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 12:12 am

Killing Osama was an important step in the War on Terror.  It brought justice to the victims of 9/11 and gave a psychological boost to the West.  It showed our resolve and serves as a warning to any future assailants.  It also showcased the excellence of our armed forces.

But going after Bin Laden was the lowest common denominator of the War on Terror, something on which most of our varied political forces could agree.  Do we pursue regime changes in the Middle East?  Get rid of all terrorist groups?  Destroy Al Qaida?  Zero in on Osama?  The last goal is the least ambitious and palatable to the most.

When Nazi Germany fell, Hitler committed suicide.  He didn’t commit suicide after loosing Stalingrad or retreating from Poland.  His death marked the end of war.  We killed Bin Laden, and it kind of feels like closure, but is it?  Hillary has to warn us that the war is far from over, and the warning goes first and foremost to her own party which includes a sizable pacifist faction.  I’m interested to see how the Democratic party will now formulate foreign policy vis-a-vis the War on Terror, and whether it will be able to sell this policy to the mainstream voter.

I don’t think conservatives who pay attention will suddenly see Obama as a strong military leader.  Conservatives know that he deserves credit for carrying on with the policies of the Bush Administration, and that these are the policies (like designating Al Qaida detainees as enemy combatants and targeted assassinations) that he initially opposed.  Yesterday Rush gave Obama props for insisting on using the SEALs as opposed to the scorched Earth approach favored by the military: this way we can quell any future conspiracy theorists.  True, but it also shows Obama’s willingness to risk American lives when other alternatives are available.

While Osama was a hugely important terrorist symbol of the first decade of the 21st century, he was virtually retired by the time we got him.  He was no longer issuing orders to Al Qaida or any other terrorist network.  Plus, his popularity in the Muslim world peaked in 2003.  The Markets’ reaction to the news of his death was lukewarm.  It might just be that an average American might feel that Osama no longer poses the kind of threat he once did.  Maybe we have a short memory.  Perhaps we are too preoccupied with inflation, debt and unemployment.  While Obama will get some sort of a bounce in the polls, such bounce is likely be short-lived (via Political Junkie Mom).

In September 2001, I was a TA at UC Berkeley.  The professor I was helping thought it necessary to reassure “the kids” in her class that they are safe, so don’t worry, and worry about the poor people of Afghanistan who are about to get bombed.  I didn’t like her reaction then, and I couldn’t quite formulate my thoughts, and I didn’t have the background knowledge to back my arguments.  Now I’m going to say this: at 18, these students were adults.  And no, they weren’t safe, nobody ever is.  As adults they need to understand that it’s important to be vigilant, and we have to be on the lookout for all terrorist and other threats.  The threat of Islamism in particular is not limited to terror, and it’s paramount to prevent Islamism from infecting our democracy.  Who’s on board for that fight?



  1. First we need to define a strategy and objectives as to why we’re in Afghanistan. We haven’t done that. This is like an unfocused Viet Nam.

    Comment by Country Thinker — May 5, 2011 @ 3:37 am

    • Honestly… I’m a hawk, but I’m not entirely sold on Afghanistan. Our foreign policy should be guided by enlightened self-interest, but I our interest in Central Asia articulated. Plus, why are we giving the deadline for the withdrawal?

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — May 5, 2011 @ 5:08 am

      • Cynically, I have pondered whether the surge with an expiration date had some underlying economic motivations. After all, WWII was supposedly the great vindicator of the Keynesian model.

        Comment by Country Thinker — May 6, 2011 @ 8:00 pm

        • Huh! It’s an interesting idea to entertain. I always assumed that the expiration date is there to placate his constituency.

          Comment by edge of the sandbox — May 6, 2011 @ 9:01 pm

      • Maybe so, but the timing was consistent with what you might expect from a “stimulus” program. At the very least I’m guessing his economic advisors were giving him the thumbs-up.

        Comment by Country Thinker — May 7, 2011 @ 8:17 pm

  2. “In September 2001, I was a TA at UC Berkeley. The professor I was helping thought it necessary to reassure “the kids” in her class that they are safe, so don’t worry, and worry about the poor people of Afghanistan who are about to get bombed.”

    That’s just pathetic.

    Comment by Mr. Bingley — May 5, 2011 @ 11:23 am

  3. Hilter killing himself ended the war, but that was against a State. Killing Osama doesn’t end terrorism it just ends one branch of it. It is a big tree.

    Our agenda, as Bush put it, is to help spread freedom. It’s up to the people of those countries what they do with it. I don’t mean political freedom first, I mean economic freedom. Studies have shown the most economically free nations not only have the most personal liberty but also stable governments that don’t stir up trouble. Because when people realize that they can own a car, a house, or buy stuff they want to make their lives better they will have a stake in making sure their nation isn’t run by tyrants.

    Comment by Harrison — May 7, 2011 @ 4:11 am

    • Spreading freedom is a worthy goal; it’s something that requires patience because we have to spearhead the emergence of democratic institutions, first and foremost the free market. Who knew it would be possible in Chile?

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — May 7, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

      • It’s funny you mention Chile, because I site it as an example quite frequently. Pinochet, for all his brutality, was intelligent enough to consult with Milton Friedman and listen to him.

        Comment by Country Thinker — May 7, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

        • I can’t believe the crap he’s got for giving a sound economic advise. When I bring up Milton Freedman in a conversation, and people know who he is, it’s usually “Oh, the Pinochet’s guy!”

          Comment by edge of the sandbox — May 7, 2011 @ 10:05 pm

      • It was the textbook example of how economic freedom can lead to individual freedom. Yes, Pinochet was a criminal. But yes, by giving Pinochet sound free market advice, he paved the way for the ascendance of the sliver along the Pacific.

        A peaceful and prosperous revolution – who could argue with that? Friedman deserved the Nobel Peace Prize, not criticism.

        Comment by Country Thinker — May 8, 2011 @ 8:53 pm

  4. it has already infected our democracy..sigh..Keep up the fight!

    Comment by Angel — May 9, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

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