Questions from the Killing of Osama Bin Laden
12:42 PM, May 2, 2011 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
First reports from the battlefield are notoriously inaccurate, and it’s to be expected that they will be confusing and contradictory – and, considering that “sources and methods” and Pakistani sensibilities are fairly important in this case, probably intentionally misleading. The initial stories about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden may not stand the test of time. But here are some pertinent operational and tactical questions:
The largest lesson of the raid is not the virtues of the dogged counterterrorism experts, however. The ability to generate the intelligence and conduct the raid is the product of years of effort, not just by the intelligence and special operations communities but by the entire American military, diplomatic corps, and political leadership. It’s the result of persistence, not just inspiration. The opportunity would never have come about but for the continuity of U.S. policy from the Bush to Obama administrations, by the sacrifices of Americans in uniform and across the government, of our allies – most especially our Muslim allies.
The temptation to declare victory in the “global war on terror” is, a decade after 9/11, very strong. But Osama bin Laden was only a part of the problem of the “greater Middle East,” and even among the constantly metastasizing forms of al Qaeda. And all Americans can share in the feeling of justice done to an extremely evil enemy. But the so-called “Long War” will continue. A good strategist instinctively reinforces success rather than using it as a cover for retreat.