I might have to confess to a bit of jumping up and down last Sunday, but that was mostly out of surprise.
Nearly ten years have passed since 9/11 and President Obama was finally able to announce the death of the mastermind. Twitter came alive with the news before the President even spoke, and outside somewhere, I could swear I heard fireworks. Piper gave me this kind of grimace at the reports of spontaneous singing outside the White House, but I thought it was kind of cool.
Now I'm a mom in my 40s who had to go to work the next morning, but if I were a college student in Boston or New York, or D.C., I might have been out there on the streets. It doesn't seem exactly right to celebrate a death, and I appreciated the Canadian Prime Minister's expression of "sober satisfaction" upon hearing the news, but Americans wanted, and perhaps needed to celebrate.
I'm no hawk, but I supported our invasion of Afghanistan. After we were attacked, the right thing to do was to take out bin Laden. We could not let that attack go unanswered, and if we were able to take out the Taliban and make the situation safer for Afghani women and girls, so much the better. There are certain circumstances where turning the other cheek does not lead to peace and had we been able to accomplish the stated objective, we could have left Afgahnistan a better, more stable place. We might have beheaded the serpent instead of allowing a hydra to grow.
Unfortunately, we squandered that opportunity by allowing bin Laden to escape to Pakistan, invading Iraq, and looking the other way while Pakistan took money from us and from al Qaeda to harbor our attacker. Would all this have happened if Bush didn't have Halliburton to support?
President Obama made the killing, not capture, of bin Laden a top priority. There have been many, many moves in this fight against Islamic extremism, where I have thought we misstepped, but this was not one of them. This was a clean, surgical strike, it did not endanger civilians. It was planned slowly and carefully, and it worked. This is what happens when you take intelligence seriously; when it is not merely something to be manipulated for political gain.
Of course there are political repercussions from this action. Unbelieveably, some Republicans are scrambling to credit the Bush Administration. Obama has put to rest the notion that Democrats are somehow soft on terrorism because we take the time to formulate an appropriate response. A message has been sent to extremists that we are taking this seriously now, the distraction of Iraq is nearly over, and that our approach will be different, based more on intelligence, and less on large scale military action; the way it should have been all along.
That's not to say that we are safer, no, probably less so for the immediate future. In ten years the hydra has grown strong and largely underground, but not entirely. Pakistan has been put on notice, and though they claim to be a partner of ours, the reality is that they are a failed state - with nuclear weapons - getting incredible pressure from extremists who have been allowed to flourish in a corrupt environment.
Sadly, our work in the region is far from over. The President has made it clear that we are not done in Afghanistan, and as our releationship with Pakistan and other countries in the Middle East recalibrates in the wake of this raid and the "Arab Spring," there may be a lot of ugliness still to come.
In the meantime, a small celebration of a job well done, and a mission truly accomplished might be in order. We are not, in any way, celebrating the death of innocents here, as some in other countries did when the towers fell. When something big happens, good or bad, people have a natural tendency to want to congregate, whether in vigil or celebration, to mark the occasion. In this long and terrible war that may never truly end and in which success is hard to define, this was a clear victory. It may be as close to a VE day as we'll ever have.