Some initial thoughts, on a beautiful day in a palpably better world without Osama:
1. I’m astonished he was still alive. I was certain he died from an anonymous bomb or health problems sometime between ’01 and ’04. He hadn’t released any tapes or videos with unambiguous confirmation of when they were recorded, and the general consensus was that al-Qaida was now a fully decentralized organization that had adjusted to operating without him. The fact that he wasn’t dead meant that, unlike his suicide bombers and guerrillas, he had basically abandoned his own cause to live in (very) quiet luxury. So add “coward” to “monster”.
2. Weekly World News (a now-defunct humor tabloid that reported entirely made-up news) used to report that Osama was alive and hiding in Florida. They weren’t that far off. Hiding in a mansion next to a military base in a major city near the capital does not give me a very high opinion of Pakistan.
3. Frankly three wars is three more than we should be in, but I wouldn’t be too upset if we added a fourth to decapitate the Pakistani government if it turns out they were complicit in hiding Osama. Of course cooler heads will prevail and it won’t happen, but that’s my emotional instinct.
4. Most of the reaction among my friends on Facebook has been celebratory. There was only a little political sniping (“Obama did what Bush couldn’t” vs. “Bush should get the credit for everything that lead up to it”). In any event that argument is pretty silly, akin to crediting or blaming the Secretary of Transportation about the pothole on your commute to work. Both presidents deserve their share of credit, and the great majority of the credit goes to the anonymous intelligence analysts, spies, and special forces who did the hard work.
5. On almost every other issue I’m an Obama critic, but he gets top marks from me on this one. Top marks plus extra credit, because he ordered the dangerous but much more effective ground assault rather than a bombing run.
6. In his speech – which was almost surreal to watch – Obama said that he ordered the mission with the goal of the death or capture of Osama bin Laden. I wonder if the actual order was to kill him, full stop. One of the serious weaknesses of the US counterterrorism effort is a nearly complete lack of a clear and uncontroversial way to try suspected terrorists in court. There is almost no possible way a trial of Osama could have been anything but a debacle, and dead men need no trial.
7. Not sure I like the burial at sea though. Obviously you don’t want him stuffed at the Smithsonian, but you’d like to have some independent forensic analysis by countries whose citizens are not likely to immediately believe the White House.
8. Of course Osama’s death won’t make much difference in regard to preventing future terrorism. But who cares?
9. Nobody who was part of the raid will ever have to buy a beer again.
10. “Never forget” eventually became something of a punchline, but somewhere deep within even the jaded and partisan souls of modern Americans, we never did forget.