The news of Osama bin Laden’s demise has been a long time coming–so long in fact that it has taken some hours to sink in and become real. A decade can be a long time when you are grieving and angry and needful of closure. The scenes of jubilation that spread from ballpark to subway to the White House seemed like a movie in the wee hours of this morning, and while others will opine on the details of today’s momentous event, I find myself reflecting on the road that brought us here.
The seemingly endless–and hopeless–search for OBL had threatened to become our nation’s Moby Dick, an obsessive quest that destroys not only the prey but also the predator. Our collective unresolved need to “get” the man who ordered those planes to fly into our buildings quickly became a cancer that turned citizen against citizen, and provoked some of the harshest partisanship I have witnessed.
But now we have OBL, and it is an opportunity for us to prove ourselves as Americans. For those of us on the right, we should simply thank God for a CIA Director who took the time to develop the appropriate plan, a Secretary of Defense who lent him sufficient man and firepower, and a President who was decisive enough to pull the trigger at the right moment. This sort of leadership should not be parsed or resented. For their part, our fellow citizens on the left might consider giving up the relentless drumbeat of “war crimes” for those who did so much of the long and lonely work to make this possible. Even with the so-called “harsh” interrogation techniques used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, it took years to put together the pieces. How many honestly regret those techniques this morning, or that we had Guantanamo to house KSM and his colleagues for further reference?
If we on both sides can make these respective leaps we will truly have killed our white whale, and not annihilated ourselves in the process. This is not to say that we will be singing kumbaya together over the debt ceiling tomorrow, nor should we. But we will have met a great challenge, as so many generations of Americans have done, together. While the war may not be over, that would be a tremendous victory, and Osama bin Laden’s ultimate defeat.