I've been reflecting on what I was thinking and how I felt when I found out Osama bin Laden was dead. Some of the positives are straightforward. He was an evil person, leading a group set on doing evil against the United States. He was the mastermind behind the horrific attack on our country on 9/11/2001. It certainly brings closure to many of the family members of those lost on 9/11. However, there are some other issues that are not so clear.
One political argument that arose almost immediately was who should get credit for this. Liberal media and bloggers said President Obama should be praised for his increased effort in Afghanistan. MSNBC was first to mention the "Mission Accomplished" anniversary even before the President spoke that night. Liberal bloggers were also relentless when the Fox News ticker came across with the error of saying "Obama bin Laden" and called immediately for an apology. Conservative media really stretched to find any connection to President Bush, defending all of the decisions he made after 9/11. Once again, both sides missed the point.
To address the ticker error, it is simply explained by auto-correct. I am sure we've all come across the more humorous results of auto-correct. Auto-correct works by predicting what you are going to type or what you meant to type based on what you've typed in the past and also on common misspelled words. Osama bin Laden had been quiet on the news for months now, where as it is pretty common for the President to be in the news. The "Obama bin Laden" error was just that, an error due to auto-correct. The same thing happened to liberal actor Jason Alexander on Twitter. I don't recall any liberal blogs demanding an apology from him.
Where does the credit belong? Truly, it belongs to those intelligence agents and special forces troops that found him and killed him. However, the leadership for those organizations is in Washington DC. In my personal opinion, I think President Bush and President Obama deserve equal credit. This is because President Bush brought in Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense in 2006. Robert Gates is widely respected for his work in intelligence, the military, and education. Like any politician, he wasn't without controversy, but obviously was respected enough that President Obama kept Gates on as Secretary of Defense in his administration. The war on terror is a fluid operation. I can't imagine We have 50,000+ troops in Afghanistan to find one person. President Obama saw an opportunity and chose to act on it, but I don't think Osama bin Laden was his sole focus.
I also wonder how much did this really help to secure America. Our war on terror has been focused in Afghanistan and Iraq. We know threats come from all areas of the Middle East, as well as threats from North Korea and even unrest in Mexico. It would be impossible to track down every crazy around the world that wants to cause harm to the United States. We can't even find all the crazies here. In 2009, there were over 1,000 murders in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago alone. About 3,000 people died in the attacks of 9/11. Here's my point. The defense budget is just about $1 trillion NOT including supplemental spnding for Iraq and Afghanistan. If we brought the troops home and reduced the defense spending, we could not only reduce the deficit but increase our ability to stop crime AND terrorism at home. Let's say we reduced the Pentagon budget by $500 billion and put $250 billion into law enforcement. If a new police officer cost $100,000 per year, we could hire 2.5 million new police officers. Imagine if we had an extra 50,000 police officers in every state what we could do to fight crime and watch for terrorism. I'm not saying it is the right answer, but I just wonder if our current policy is giving us the best benefit and if there would be ways to be more efficient and yet keep us safer than we are now.
One other thought on the war on terror and our actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Kosovo, and all of the places we exert our military might - do we want to give the President so much power? Every single person should watch this video from Penn Jillette (warning: his language can be a little crude, but he is very logical and I thoroughly enjoy his intelligent rhetoric). He explains the danger of giving the government too much power, taxes, etc. To summarize, he says that even if every single decision and policy of President Obama is right and good, at some point he will no longer be in office. The next President my use that power for things not so right or good or for things we won't like. It is a delicate balance, but the past few Presidents have gone far above and beyond the reach of power they were intended to have and we need to reign it in.
What I do know is we now have an opportunity to change policy now that we can close the door on Osama bin Laden. I think it is time the U.S. reduces its footprint in the world. We can better fight terrorism right here at home, with less use of the military and more use of technology. This would have additional benefits of saving money and may even keep us safer (terrorists have pointed to the imperialistic nature of the United States for the last 50 years or so as one of the reasons they despise us and twisted words of the Quran to incite violence against us). Let's thank our troops, credit all of our leaders past and present for their role in protecting our freedom, and let's find new and better ways to protect that freedom going forward.