Bin Laden and the Future
It was getting to be embarrassing : close to 10 years on and the Americans could not get him. Full marks for this effort. It did not perish in desert sands as did Jimmy Carter’s helicopter-borne effort to save the Iran hostages three decades ago. And it caught the terror fanatic at home when he might have been off in the hills. Congratulations to the team that planned and delivered and the president who put his reelection on the line but was prepared to hold action back for eight months to make certain.
Most things the CIA has done have backfired or failed outright. Tim Weiner wrote a book about this called Legacy of Ashes, charting the agency’s history of failure. The Bay of Pigs taught the Kennedys something about the CIA. Then it was to be wrong on Iran, wrong on Iraq, with a record of failure in the Middle East that in fact goes back to an attempted coup in Syria in the early 50s. The CIA cannot hold its head high. Striking at Osama – at last, some success.
It happens against the backdrop of a humanitarian intervention in Libya going badly wrong. Do a tally, someone. How many more are going to die because the British-French intervention( isn’t that redolent of Suez ?) has stretched out a conflict that might have been settled with fewer Libyan lives being sacrificed if left to its own, all to feed the vanity of President Sarkozy and Prime Minister David Cameron. How Obama must wish he had resisted their drum-beating. Mission creep is underway, we can’t identify the people we are helping, we don’t know if we are making it easier for Islamists to take the country or how it might end.
Meanwhile, on the terrorism threat we are haunted as ever by the nightmare I discussed below, the prospect of the detonation of a backpack nuclear bomb in a Western capital, somewhat more scary than a highjacked plane or two being steered into a tower. Security has to intercept every such plot ; the conspirators have only to succeed on their 99th attempt.
Still Islamist resources are not limitless. And at this moment, as Napoleon said, the corpse of an enemy always smells sweet.