The death of bin Laden

Osama bin Laden is dead, and the world is celebrating. President Obama made the announcement last night from the White House.

Bin Laden was not found cowering in a cave as most Americans pictured him. Instead, he was in a fortified compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, raising fresh concerns about Pakistan’s true loyalties in the fight against Islamic extremism. There will be time to give that disturbing fact the attention it deserves. For now, America and other victims of al-Qaida terror can simply cheer the fact that, at long last, the religious fanatic behind the deaths of so many innocents has finally been brought to justice – nearly 10 years after the 9/11 attacks made him the most wanted man on Earth.

While we’re celebrating the end of a madman, a couple points are worth thinking about.

First, for all of President Bush’s cowboy bravado – “Wanted: dead or alive” – he never got bin Laden, perhaps because he got distracted by the misadventure in Iraq, or perhaps because his true sentiment was this: “I truly am not that concerned about him.”

Obama was. He told the CIA to make finding bin Laden its top priority.

Second, bin Laden’s location wasn’t discovered because someone was waterboarded or because an aircraft carrier launched waves of bombers. It took solid intelligence and detective work to track bin Laden down. For all the talk about a “war on terror,” the truth is that only rarely will the full military might of the United States be necessary or appropriate to deal with a terror threat – the initial invasion of Afghanistan serving as a prime example. In most situations, the best way to battle terrorists is through intelligence and law enforcement operations that disrupt their networks and foil their plots before they happen.

Or find and kill their leaders.

Osama bin Laden is dead. It’s a damn shame it took so long.

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