by Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
Professor, Depts. of Political Science and of International Relations, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
President Barack Obama and the Navy Seals made May Day 2011 into a moment for all Americans to celebrate. Nearly ten years after the vile attacks of 9/11, their author, Osama bin Laden, died in Pakistan at the hands of our elite fighters.
What a difference a year makes! Last May Day (2010), in Times Square, New York City, a faulty fuse was all that stopped a terrorist’s car bomb from killing again. The angry young Pakistani-American bomber, Faisal Shahzad, who soon was arrested, quickly was embraced by anti-Americans worldwide. The Pakistani Taliban, bin Laden’s ally, released Shahzad’s bragging video and acknowledged its financial involvement.
One of a spate of apparent “lone wolf” attackers in 2009-11, Shahzad’s near-miss epitomized our growing frustration with the dividends of a decade-long “war on terrorism.” Despite Herculean efforts by our intelligence community, despite two burdensome wars carried on the backs of our military, two presidents apparently had been unable to protect us from the dark fears planted that sunny September day.
President Obama perceived the location of the root problem upon taking office, when he substantially re-focused the CIA onto Pakistan. Increasing numbers of U.S. drone attacks against terrorists there –53 in his first year in office– sent a message not just to Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies. When better cooperation from Pakistani Government and military officials still was slow in forthcoming, Obama launched 117 more drone-based air raids in 2010, and more than 20 more already this year. The clear message to Pakistani officials has been: stand with us against terror, or stand aside.
On May Day, 2011, the gloves came off in a new way. Without seeking permission from anyone, four U.S. helicopters swooped in on Osama bin Laden’s regal mansion, two dozen brave SEALS blazed into it, and in 20 minutes the Al Qaeda leader had been shot dead. Within the day, American soldiers had buried the world’s most wanted man at sea, blocking any future graveside shrine to inspire our enemies.
What this electric moment of genuine heroism shows us is that the United States still stands for justice and will confront and defeat evil no matter how long it takes. Bruised egos and hurt feelings in Pakistan about not having been duly “consulted” soon may be heard. But the louder message is to them, and to any others who doubt U.S. resolve. Those who trade in American lives have a high price to pay.
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