Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden

A thumbnail moon rise this past weekend followed by dramatic sun rises. I don't know why experiencing the start of a new day continues to effect me, but I certainly recommend that everyone get out of bed and watch a sunrise every once in a while. Perhaps together, we can figure out its attraction.

Clearly, the news of the day is the death of Osama bin Laden. To the brave special forces unit that executed such a daring, dangerous and precise operation, we all owe a great debt and sincere congratulations. I was especially touched by the people interviewed that lost loved ones on 9/11 and who exuded a sense of relief and closure upon hearing the news. The spontaneous celebrations in Washington DC and at ground zero, among other places, speak to the deep seated sadness that Americans have suppressed since that scary day almost 10 years ago. As is the case with all momentous events, we will all remember for the rest of our lives where we were on 9/11 and now, where we were when we heard the news of the killing of bin Laden.

Despite the realization that bin Laden may have been less involved operationally with the designs of al-Qaeda he was still the face of this movement and its spiritual leader. While his memory may still be used to inspire suicide missions, violence and destruction, his charisma and connections with those that loved him will not be easily replicated. The famous and infamous alike share a certain trait that elevate them to a unique place in history. Bin Laden had this trait which is why he generates such extreme love, and extreme hatred.

For me, the removal of someone so misguided as to think that violence and destruction somehow conformed to his religion and was blessed by his God is a good thing. Many commentators I heard today mentioned that they thought that bin Laden not only suffered a deserved, violent death and less than desirable burial, but that he certainly faced an eternity of torture at the hands of his creator. It is hard to disagree with this assessment.

Perhaps though, there is a lesson for all of us in his example. Righteous violence, whether to deal with a terrorist leader or the neighborhood bully can be a seductive activity and so easily condoned, even cheered. But where does it end? In the case of bin Laden, "justice has been served" as President Obama said. We spent untold dollars and countless lives to hunt down bin Laden and I would imagine that the vast majority of Americans would feel the price was worthwhile to avenge the death of the victims of 9/11.

But what about invading a country to remove its leader? Or firing missiles into foreign cities to force those in charge to relinquish power? When does violence in an effort to fight a brutal dictator or an "evil" nation cross over the line of righteousness and become the very thing it claims to abhor? Is it possible that by spending almost 1 out of every 3 dollars of our national budget on the military that we have stepped over the line of rightousness?

In light of the dramatic raid and killing of Bin Laden, one might argue that we don't need to spend over $700 billion each year on the military when superior intelligence, patience and precision are all we need to strike a blow against our enemies.

We are currently debating the causes and solutions of our growing national debt. Our colossal military budget is a factor in this growing debt. Perhaps, as part of this debate, we should be questioning our desire to be the world's police force, the cost of such a desire, and the moral certainty that this path is the will of our God.

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