Texas -- Osama bin Laden is back, and suddenly no one gives a damn? What is this??!!
The White House spokesman announced, "This is about more than one man." The president
now says it "really doesn't matter much" if bin Laden is dead or alive. This is
the same president who promised to bring him back "dead or alive," isn't it?
Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post dismissed bin Laden as "a blast from the
past." Well, that was a helluva blast, Howard, and I for one haven't forgotten
it. I want that son of a bitch dead or alive, and I want getting him to be this
country's top priority in terms of enemies.
Maybe they're downplaying bin Laden because he's so hard to get. I can understand
that. It was always more of a complicated international police operation than
a matter of bombing poor Afghanistan. But we knew going in that it was "a different
kind of war" and that we were in it for the long haul. The one thing I never expected
was that we'd just drop the whole thing.
I know we are not actually doing that, that we still have people hunting "O-sama
Bin," as he is called in Texas, probably night and day. But the degree of focus
and determination makes a difference in a long criminal hunt. When you let your
task force get distracted by new cases, you lose focus. Like the sniper case,
this one will probably be solved by a piece of luck, "a break," but you have to
be looking hard for the break.
What is the tactical advantage in dismissing his reappearance as though it
were of no consequence? That only encourages reluctantly cooperating intelligence
agencies, like the one in Pakistan, to think, "Whew, heat's off."
We weren't attacked by Iraq, we were attacked by bin Laden's terrorist network.
We weren't attacked with nuclear weapons, we were attacked with box-cutters. That
hate-crazed religious fanatic, so intoxicated by his own mad rhetoric that he
thinks he has a right to kill people, is a clear and present danger. His organization
has been striking all over the world, even blowing up Aussies in the paradisiacal
Bali. But we're all supposed to focus on Saddam Hussein.
OK, let's. It seems to me we should all recognize there's a real downside risk
to doing nothing about Saddam Hussein. I understand the case for doing something
is well-made in Ken Pollack's new book, "The Threatening Storm" (it's a serious
journalistic no-no to cite a book you haven't read: I've barely started it --but
the reviews were good). I also think we need to recognize there's a grave downside
risk to invading his country. I don't mean to dismiss the horror of war, and I
highly recommend Chris Hedges' splendid little book (which I have finished) "War
Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning." Hedges spent years covering wars and has written
the book "not to dissuade us from war, but to understand it." His understanding
is profound and was earned on the ground.
But (she said, taking up the argument again), the greatest risk for us in invading
Iraq is probably not war itself, so much as: What happens after we win? The risks
of an invasion setting off reactions from a hideous civil war in Iraq to toppling
regimes all over the Middle East is very real. Also at risk is the very international
cooperation necessary to track Al Qaeda.
There is a batty degree of triumphalism loose in this country right now. We
are brushing off world opinion as though it mattered not a whit what other people
think of us. People say dismissively, "Oh, the French have always hated us." That
is simply not true. Or, "The Italians are always demonstrating about something."
Half a million of them? The National Review even saw fit to run a piece by some
juvenile jerk attacking Canadians as a bunch of whiny wimps. Great, just what
we need -- let's see if we can possibly alienate the best neighbor any country
In the first place, that kind of arrogance is exactly what creates terrorists.
In the second place, it is the cooperation of Arab countries we particularly need
at this point. And long-term, when our most serious problems will be lack of water,
overpopulation and global warming, international cooperation will be critical
to our lives.
The way one solves problems obviously influences not only the outcome, but
the kinds of problems one faces after the immediate problem is settled. If we
use war, the other problems will in turn be harder to solve. Including and especially
getting bin Laden.
So it seems to me we should be engaged not in some simplistic debate about
hawks and doves, or even chickenhawks and doves, but a sober, thorough and very
realistic weighing of the relative risks involved. While we focus on Al Qaeda.
© 2002 Creators Syndicate