Getting Bin Laden

When’s the last time you talked U.S. foreign policy? The merits of the Afghanistan mission? Our increasing use of drones to kill from the sky? Famine in the Horn of Africa? Syria?

Most people are preoccupied with making ends meet and related challenges in their daily lives. When afforded a little free-time, they discuss the stock market sell-off, the return of the NFL, Justin Timberlake’s newest movie, and maybe the debt ceiling limit.

Has there ever been a time when U.S. citizens have paid less attention to things foreign? Props to you for getting this far in a “foreign policy” post.

Getting Bin Laden is the title of a New Yorker essay by Nicholas Schmidle.

Reading it, I couldn’t help but think my hawkish, conservative friends who have zero respect for Obama, would probably finish it with a modicum of begrudging respect for him. In contrast, for me, it was somewhat disillusioning. It’s increasingly obvious he’s cut from very similar cloth as the Republican and Democratic Presidents before him.

He’s authorized eight times more drone missions than Bush. Apparently, he pursued Bin Laden with greater zeal than Bush. When asked, he told the military brass responsible for planning the Bin Laden mission that it was okay if they had to kill some civilians in the process.

The first person killed during the 38-minute long mission was Bin Laden’s courier who, in the months prior, unwittingly led the U.S. military to the compound. The second person was his wife, standing near him, unarmed. It’s unclear to me, from the description in the essay, why she was shot.

Hawks will say what they almost always say, heat of the battle, collateral damage.

If our drones and daily Abbottobad-like attacks are making us safer in the short-term, what about the medium and long-term?

The GalPal has a marine biologist friend whose master’s fieldwork took place on an island off the coast of Mexico. Her team’s goal was to rid the island of non-native animal life. The first specie, rats. Apparently the challenge is getting every last rat because rats have a built-in reproductive instinct that kicks in when being culled. The more you kill, the more the survivors speed up their reproducing.

What types of lives do children who watch their parents killed by the U.S. military end up living? China is close to developing drones. What are we going to do when that technology spreads to other countries, some that we’ll likely meet on the battlefield?

Counter the prevailing isolationist mentalilty and read The Looming Tower. Iman al Zawahiri was an Egyptian revolutionary intent on overthrowing what was in his eyes the too secular Mubarak government. Imprisoned in a crack down, he was tortured mercilessly for a few years; consequently, he left prison deeply radicalized. Watching your parents get killed must be torture.

When it comes to military might, where is the point of diminishing returns? Was Ghandi right, eventually, does an eye for an eye make the whole world blind?