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What is the meaning of the assassination of OBL?
May 5, 2011 11:04 PM   Subscribe

Guy Rundle teases out the meanings of the bin Laden assassination, in contrast to the Eichmann trial.
posted by wilful (93 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Has anyone posted the GOOD infographic?
posted by nile_red at 11:18 PM on May 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


The US could not stand to face Osama bin Laden in the flesh, answering questions, advancing his world view in open court.

He knew too many dirty secrets to be allowed due process, but killing him in the manner chosen does suggest a kind of systemic insecurity on the part of the American empire, in that it could not even trust in its own rules to administer justice to the worst of its offspring.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:27 PM on May 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


Or the ballistic?
posted by Mblue at 11:29 PM on May 5, 2011


So... was bin Laden shot because he resisted — the official story — or because a live, captured bin Laden would have torn the Obama administration apart?


Asked by Ann.
posted by Mblue at 11:35 PM on May 5, 2011


So the question remains: on whose behalf was Eichmann being tried, and by whom? The answer is, by Israel as a representative of humanity.

Or "as a representative of the Jewish people", whose interests had been -- to put it politely -- underrepresented on the world stage to that point. That's how it's portrayed in contemporary accounts.

Certainly Eichmann's crimes were 'against humanity', in the sense that any genocide, successful or not, is a crime against the whole of the species. It fell to Israel to enforce them in the face of Argentina's unwillingness to extradite. It's harder to make the same case about bin Laden.
posted by zvs at 12:00 AM on May 6, 2011


This is an honest request, I'm not trolling - help me understand the theory that a live bin Laden would have torn the administration apart. Is it because to not publicly hang him would be political suicide, but to publicly hang him would make him George Bush?
posted by spicynuts at 12:01 AM on May 6, 2011


It fell to Israel to enforce them in the face of Argentina's unwillingness to extradite. It's harder to make the same case about bin Laden.

That remains to be seen until we get to the bottom of Pakistan's denials about knowledge of his whereabouts.
posted by spicynuts at 12:02 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


That remains to be seen until we get to the bottom of Pakistan's denials about knowledge of his whereabouts.

Yeah, true. But I would argue that we weren't acting in the interests of the entire human race, in the way the article posits.
posted by zvs at 12:05 AM on May 6, 2011


[somewhere in Hell]

Eichmann: So they finally got you, huh?

ObL (proudly): Yes, but I stayed hidden for 10 years!

Eichmann: Amateur.
posted by bwg at 12:23 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


zvs, my feeling is that your definition of humanity is entirely too broad.
posted by spicynuts at 12:25 AM on May 6, 2011


A Continually Updated List of How the Administration Says Bin Laden Died
posted by telstar at 12:28 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Has anyone posted the GOOD infographic?

I just had a quick look.

They ask "Do you approve of the US military action that killed Osama bin Laden?" and then they ask who deserves the credit and almost everyone gives it mainly to the U.S. military. Doesn't the first question prime the answer for the second? Would they have seen different answers if they had asked about the "US executive action" or "US secret action"?

And they ask "Do you think the U.S. is safe from terrorism after Bin Laden's death?" and offer the answer options Safe, Less Safe, No Difference, and No Opinion. No option for [possibly slightly?] safer, so you have to choose the very absolute Safe (yay, no more terrorism!) or go with Less Safe.
posted by pracowity at 12:32 AM on May 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


ahh interesting ...we can call this assassination now without everyone getting shrill. Or is it because of the time difference? Good to see the word execution in the headline of the second link. ( and yes I can take it to meta if you like)
posted by adamvasco at 12:37 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


The military operation to kill Bin Laden was a triumph. The political handling of the aftermath by the Obama administration has been full of flaws. I don't think this is the fault of the military. In the end though, whatever the USA does will be criticised by exactly the same people on exactly the same blogs and TV shows. If photos were released they'd be complaining about gloating and insensitivity, if Bin Laden had been captured they'd be complaining that he'd been illegally snatched or couldn't be tried under US law or whatever. If people really want to think that Bin Laden was somehow the 'offspring' of US policy that's up to them, but it's pretty racist to think that nobody has agency in this world except Americans. Sometimes people do things for their own reasons. This is also the sort of reasoning which lays every death in Iraq or Afghanistan at the door of the US, despite the vast majority of casualties being caused by direct terrorist action. If one's thinking process is 'America is to blame now what's the question?' then nothing is going to change your mind. Osama Bin Laden was an enemy of the world, and those he sent or inspired to blow themselves up in markets and cafes around the world - while he lived a comfortable life in his own multi-million pound compound - have killed tens of thousands of innocent muslims. The long overdue death of this monster will save more muslim lives than anything else anyone could have done.
posted by joannemullen at 12:44 AM on May 6, 2011


For one thing, Bin Laden could have spilled information regarding US support of the Afghan rebels during the 1980s against the Soviets. We helped them with, among other things, weapons and training, and probably helped provide conduits for funding by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.

As to the subject of the article-- I actually was thinking about Eichmann the other day, and remarking to someone that not only did Israel try Eichmann, but the Nuremburg military tribunal tried Goering, Von Ribbentrop and a host of other prominent Nazis as well. These men killed millions of people, and, contrary to the linked article, DID have a network of supporters. There were plenty of former Nazis who still believed in the cause, and a lot of them went to Latin America where they found refuge in places like Argentina.

Americans want to talk about killing and watch violent movies and play violent video games, and watch fighting sports. But it's all about simulacra. Hence the popularity of things like the UFC gym franchise where you can "train like a UFC fighter," without actually sparring. Which is sort of like spending all your time doing tennis drills and conditioning but never actually playing a game of tennis. And for all the fetishization of the military and the years of fear mongering by the commentariat, I have seen zero, ZERO interest in reviving the draft. If we were really that concerned legitimately about terrorism and outside invasion, it would seem to me that compelling all Americans to do military service and be on reserve status would be the most cost effective way to deal with stochastic threats. What do we do if there's a random terrorist mass casualty event in Omaha, NE? Well, if we have deep reserves, then ordinary citizens go home, grab their gear and get to work. But we don't do that.

In contrast to the USA, look at Finland. They stood on the border of the USSR for decades, under constant threat of invasion and they did it with a small professional force, large numbers of conscripts and an extensive reserve system. You can't tell me that somehow even a large terrorist mass casualty event (say blowing up a nuclear reactor) is in the same ball park as a total land invasion by an overwhelming military force.

Americans at all levels of our society refuse to look at hard facts and make decisions accordingly; people prefer fandom instead of participation. Vast numbers of Americans look on the military, as fans. Fans don't get on the field and play-- the stand on the sidelines and only participate in the narrative as the cheering crowd. And unfortunately, now that I think about it, vast numbers of Americans also look at politics as fandom as well. They don't really want to participate in the civic life of our country, they just want to stand on the sidelines and scream for their team.

The only good part about this, though is that fanboys generally crumble in the face of actual competence. Or to put it in the sports analogy: fanboys punk out, and players play.
posted by wuwei at 12:45 AM on May 6, 2011 [64 favorites]


Eco's FTW! (nearly ;-)
posted by Pinback at 12:45 AM on May 6, 2011


The long overdue death of this monster will save more muslim lives than anything else anyone could have done.

Please explain how capture, trial and subsequent execution would have nullified this statement.
posted by spicynuts at 12:55 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


For one thing, Bin Laden could have spilled information regarding US support of the Afghan rebels during the 1980s against the Soviets. We helped them with, among other things, weapons and training, and probably helped provide conduits for funding by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.

Wasn't sure if this was a response to my request or not, but I'll respond as if it were.

1) Obama Administration was not around in 1980. How would this tear it apart?
2) So what? We were "fighting" the Soviets. If no one got sent to jail over Iran-Contra, no one's going to get sent to jail 30 years later for supporting the mujahideen. How would this tear the Obama Admin apart?
posted by spicynuts at 12:57 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hence the popularity of things like the UFC gym franchise where you can "train like a UFC fighter," without actually sparring.

hi, I'm an American and have never heard of this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:06 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bin Laden had to die as a snarling, sneaking devil (even hiding behind his wife, they claimed) and vanish from the face of the earth before anyone knew he had been found because the alternatives were too scary for the people chasing him.

What if he had ended up a captive of the West standing in a courtroom dictated by the West's rules? The idea of a living, articulate, perhaps charismatic Bin Laden getting even the slightest chance to talk to the world from his captivity and then go in chains to his execution was just out of the question for them.
posted by pracowity at 1:10 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


spicynuts,
I never said it would tear the administration apart.

But, realistically Bin Laden on trial could embarrass any number of people-- those connected with the operation in Afghanistan during the 1980s most certainly. And now that I think about it, since it seems likely that some elements of the Pakistani security services were providing cover for Bin Laden, he could have let that information out as well. How do you think Americans would respond if our so-called "ally" actually had major factions that sheltered the man responsible for thousands of deaths on 9/11? Not too well, would be my guess.

Brandon,
Dana White has explicitly said that:
“They don’t really want to become fighters, they just want to get in there and get the workout. That’s what the UFC gym is for. Its for people who want to train like the fighters and learn mixed martial arts but not necessarily fight or have contact.”
Link
Now there's nothing wrong with not wanting to get hit. But the fact that the UFC has invested money and is opening a chain of these gyms indicates that there is a large market in the United States for what is, essentially, fandom.
posted by wuwei at 1:18 AM on May 6, 2011


Another thought on capture+trial of Bin Laden. Remember the huge controversy over putting the Guantanamo prisoners on trial in the continental US? People were flipping out over the security risk. From my perspective that comes off as a cowardly hyperventilating, and compromising our system of due process because of a bunch of criminals.

And, there's actually a simple solution to this. In Bin Laden's case we could have stood up an Article III (of the Constitution) court just to try him as perpetrator of a crime against humanity. We could have built the court and detention facility in the middle of nowhere, perhaps on a decommissioned missile base in the Dakotas, or, out in the Alaskan wilderness. That way if some Bin Laden sympathizers had struck it with , say, a nuclear weapon, the risk to civilians would be pretty small. It should go without saying that people charged with securing Bin Laden and trying him should be able to accept the risk of an attack...hell, we try the Aryan Brotherhood and all kinds of drug gangs.....are we supposed to be cowed by Bin Laden? Please.

I'm sure someone would have bitched about the cost of standing up the tribunal and building the facility, but come on, we've been spending billions if not trillions prosecuting the wars overseas, so what's another couple of million for a court facility?
posted by wuwei at 1:27 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


For one thing, Bin Laden could have spilled information regarding US support of the Afghan rebels during the 1980s against the Soviets. We helped them with, among other things, weapons and training, and probably helped provide conduits for funding by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.

So you're saying he could have spilled information that he hadn't bothered to spill prior to his death and which everybody knows anyway? Golly gosh, that would have been quite the disaster.

insane crap that leaps from COD to UFC to tennis to the draft to Finland

o_O

I'm sure the irony of favouriting your comments about fandom are lost on those who did. What did you expect Joe American to do, exactly? Stand on the Pakistani border and try to thumb a ride on the chopper?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:31 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Honestly, the article and this post come as just as excuse to voice already held criticisms of America. Which is fine, every needs a hobby, but makes it hard to take seriously.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:34 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Perhaps the powers that be have tacitly come to the conclusion that with the benefit of hindsight they would have had a lot less trouble if Saddam had had a bullet in the head while 'resisting arrest' (and that perhaps it would have been better for Iraq, too). Hence the 'execution'.

I just hope they're not drawing the same retrospective conclusions about the people in Guantanamo, or we're in for a few years of 'kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out'.
posted by Segundus at 1:36 AM on May 6, 2011


I'm sure the irony of favouriting your comments about fandom are lost on those who did. What did you expect Joe American to do, exactly? Stand on the Pakistani border and try to thumb a ride on the chopper?

Way to precisely make his point for him.
posted by spicynuts at 1:43 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


spicynuts,
I never said it would tear the administration apart.


Yeah I wasn't sure if your comment was in answer to my question about this:

or because a live, captured bin Laden would have torn the Obama administration apart?

posted by spicynuts at 1:44 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are Australian news sites all doing that hyphenating thing with words like "raped" and "sex" now? Is that a consequence of national Internet filtering? How embarrassing.
posted by rory at 1:57 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I miss the un-cynical belief in the rule of law and truth, justice and the America way, the rule of law. Maybe that only happened in movies...

We could be so much better.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:58 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


In contrast to the USA, look at Finland.

If I have learned anything from the internet about Finland, it's that you Don't Fuck With Finland.
posted by namewithoutwords at 2:08 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Way to precisely make his point for him.

How, exactly?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:22 AM on May 6, 2011


There was a good Peter Oborne piece recently: Dismissing our enemies as lunatics will get us nowhere.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:29 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Justice may not have been done, we may never know, but they have done a woeful job of ensuring justice is seen to be done.

Brandon Blatcher, would you have us simply ignore the criticisms and allow the inevitable stream of U.S.A, U.S.A jingoism to proceed unchecked?
posted by bigZLiLk at 2:35 AM on May 6, 2011


Dismissing our enemies as lunatics will get us nowhere.

"More than that, I am certain that portraying bin Laden as some kind of one-dimensional monster is stupid."

...said the one-dimensional stupid strawman. You know who else wasn't some kind of one-dimensional monster?

"...we need to pay the terrorist mastermind more respect."

More respect than, say, hunting him for an entire fucking decade?

Seems we can have it both ways.

'Bin Laden is, like, this awesome dude who controls everything! Respect.'
'They got him!'
'Oh, like that's going to change anything. Osama, he's just this guy, you know?'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:37 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


That was a very interesting piece, many thanks. I think it strikes to the heart of something that has seemed very wrong with America in recent years.
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:46 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The military operation to kill Bin Laden was a triumph. The political handling of the aftermath by the Obama administration has been full of flaws.

So...military good, government bad. Glad to see the status quo is preserved!
posted by telstar at 2:56 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


An interesting and well-written piece. Unlike many of the recent articles on this event, it draws attention to the distasteful nature of celebrating a human death.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 3:27 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm mildly suprised that the us gov. didn't think OBL had enough useful info to make it worthwhile to keep him alive, in the balance of whatever damaging info against our (or other) government
posted by Redhush at 4:12 AM on May 6, 2011


tldr; executing your enemies in secret, rather than giving them a trial in public, is a symptom of weakness rather than strength.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:16 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Redhush: I'm mildly suprised that the us gov. didn't think OBL had enough useful info to make it worthwhile to keep him alive, in the balance of whatever damaging info against our (or other) government

What's to say they didn't, but did so in a way which precludes them from worrying about the second part of your statement? For people who don't believe that the United States is always truthful in their description of how events took place, what's to say they didn't scoop him up in a helicopter, never to be heard from by the public again? Why would they want to waste all the information which is potentially in that head of his? Why not make it look like they killed him? Serves their purposes - "We never forget", and no need for a pesky trial which could potentially be extremely uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. I'm just not sure why I have any reason whatsoever to believe things went down the way they say they did.
posted by gman at 4:24 AM on May 6, 2011


the US got 4 computer, ten hard drives and many flash drives...they didn't need OBL for questioning.
short answer: they were both horrible demented killers and I am glad they both got killed.
posted by Postroad at 4:31 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


And how are you so sure that the information they will get off these supposed hard drives to justify their futile costly war, won't actually be from Bin Laden's head?
posted by gman at 4:35 AM on May 6, 2011


The infographic is neat.
posted by cashman at 5:19 AM on May 6, 2011


They got the shit in Bin Laden's head too.

Brain matter, skull fragments...

Seriously, fuck him. Too glad he's dead to get worked up about the how.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:28 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


US Government Psy-Ops - The 'Killing' of Osama Bin Laden
posted by telstar at 5:30 AM on May 6, 2011


Are Australian news sites all doing that hyphenating thing with words like "raped" and "sex" now?

No. Firstly this isn't a news site, and secondly it's primarily an email newspaper that goes to corporate mail servers, so they err on the side of caution to avoid spamblockers.

Is that a consequence of national Internet filtering? How embarrassing.

No, the national Internet filter remains a proposal only, with a limited political life.
posted by wilful at 5:34 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Rundle is shrugging off a crucial distinction:
The decision to kill bin Laden differed from the Eichmann case in one obvious respect — there was no neo-Nazi global movement to treat Eichmann as a martyr, and use his ongoing existence as a rallying point. Nevertheless that is clearly not the only reason bin Laden was killed.
Well, it sure as hell is a sufficient one.
posted by Anything at 5:38 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now for some delusional fantasy.
posted by telstar at 5:47 AM on May 6, 2011


Seriously, fuck him. Too glad he's dead to get worked up about the how.

I wouldn't say "glad", but: Amen.

Just think of the beanplatin, internet-crimefighting that could occur if this level of interest went into the untimely deaths of not-horrible people!
posted by wrok at 6:01 AM on May 6, 2011


One can only imagine the manner in which the US would rend itself asunder, had OBL been captured alive. For one, the partisan warfare over whether OBL is tried in public court, or behind closed doors in a military tribunal would probably drag-out for years.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:03 AM on May 6, 2011


Thanks wilful. I knew that Crikey was/is comment rather than news, but think of it as part of the extended Oz news/comment landscape, hence the shorthand. I didn't realise it was an email newsletter first and foremost - that makes sense, then.

No, the national Internet filter remains a proposal only, with a limited political life.

Fingers crossed.
posted by rory at 6:13 AM on May 6, 2011


People, come on. The entire world has heard all the stories Osama could ever tell - as evidenced by you trying to outline what he may say here. Osama has had nearly 10 years of ranting and raving after 9/11, not to mention years before that to get his story out.

All of these conspiracy theories just don't make any sense. Taking for a moment an assumption that this was a "kill mission," there was plenty of reason to kill him that does not involve some conspiracy theory that he was going embarrass the US by telling tales out so school.

1) He was behind 9/11. For most people outside of anonymous internet forums (see greater internet fuckwad theory) this is reason enough.

2) He continued to plot terror attacks up until his death and promised to kill-kill-kill.

3) None of us were in the compound. If we were, we'd probably been so scared shitless we would have been firing at shadows let alone a six-foot-tall Osama standing before us.

4) Even if all the above were discounted to nothing, the fact is that if brought to the US there is no chance he wouldn't be convicted. None. It's not even a remote factor. He has admitted it his actions, he would admit his actions, case closed.

5) If kept alive, he would become a rally point for terrorism. If he spoke, it would be to cause more death and destruction. His power to do great evil would be heightened. It's frankly a relief he is dead. Unlike a defeated and controlled post-war Germany where a trial of war criminals would have minimal chance of creating an uncontrolled uprising of Nazi sympathizers, a trial of Osama would have been one big terrorism infomercial.

Also, there are some real considerations related to the actual raid I rarely see taken into account:

1) Again, none of us were there and frankly it seems there was sketchy live feed (probably only audio) from the team on the mission.

2) Only a portion of the Seal team would have been present when Osama was killed, so only a few people know what actually happened. It would be pretty easy to get some details wrong in the hours after the raid. Detailed debriefing, written reports, decisions about what is classified - all that takes some time and it doesn't shock me that factual corrections came out over time. I just think the Administration fumbled in telling us anything until they themselves had all the facts on the raid.

3) Despite the above, the US has been giving details. They could have completely lied and said Osama was waving an atomic bomb if they wanted, but they didn't. The probability is that someone jumped the gun on reporting facts and now we're getting more truth than I think you'd likely get from any other government on earth regarding such an incident.

4) Even if you say "but there were witnesses," the fact is that the Seal team could have easily eliminated that concern at the time they invaded the complex. If this was some sort of conspiracy, they likely just would have killed everyone. If they didn't kill everyone, they'd just lie. Who would the world believe? The woman shacked up with the world's most hated terrorist or a crack seal team? Why wouldn't we just believe that Osama was waving around a gun? It would have been an easy lie. What's that you say? The team was at first going to capture all of the witnesses but they had a helicopter problem? Well, then that doesn't really work with the idea of likely silencing everyone, does it.

I'm just amazed in this instant world where incorrect news travels so fast that we're so critical of any story that changes and gets fleshed out over the course of a few days. We just have to believe the worst even if it doesn't make sense. I miss the old journalism where people dug into facts, verified accounts, and then told us what happened.
posted by Muddler at 6:19 AM on May 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


I would go so far as to say that the entire essay rests on the careless dismissal of the difference between the defeated and disarmed nazis and the various suicidally murderous armed jihadist groups. His points about Eichmann vs. bin Laden form a rather tenuous basis for such a multitude of paragraphs.
posted by Anything at 6:25 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


On first read, I liked the piece a lot; it was challenging, thoughtful, emotional, had a point or three, and made me think "Ok, I need to read this again when I'm not in a hurry to get to work." Thanks, wilful; this is a much better opinion piece than those that usually get linked here.
posted by mediareport at 6:35 AM on May 6, 2011


But the fact that the UFC has invested money and is opening a chain of these gyms indicates that there is a large market in the United States for what is, essentially, fandom.

There are currently three UFC gyms total, all of them in Calfornia. So when you talk about "..the popularity of things like the UFC gym franchise ..." and attempt to use that to make a point about the American populace you sound like either a fool or an idiot. Georgia produces the most pecans of any state in the US, are you going to now say that pecans are the favorite food of America? Of course not, because taking a few examples and applying them to an entire populace doesn't make sense. So I have no idea why you ins

You're not doing any sort of deep analysis, you're working from already conceived ideas, seeing a bit of reality that "proves" your thought process and then proceeding to twist the facts of that information and use it as "evidence" of your point. And then you have the gall to turn around and say Americas don't want to engage in civic duties. If this is your idea of deep thinking, I hope that trend continues.


I would go so far as to say that the entire essay rests on the careless dismissal of the difference between the defeated and disarmed nazis and the various suicidally murderous armed jihadist groups.

Pretty much and that's pretty lazy reasoning, feels more like rhetoric device to sell his point.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:52 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


What muddler said, basically. I personally would have preferred bin Laden taken alive and put on a trial, but...the fact that he got killed instead could simply be a case of "crazy-ass shit going down during the raid and people making the best judgement they could during the confusion" as opposed to "they meant to do him in all along".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:54 AM on May 6, 2011


Think about the number of people who had nothing to do with terrorism who were killed by aircraft, manned and unmanned, since the US decided* to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. You're not really getting a positive ID during an air strike and there is certainly no intent to capture.

This wasn't some algorithmic killing machine that ID'ed Bin Laden with an over glorified version of Picassa and then blew up the entire compound plus a couple other buildings in the area for good measure. So why all the hand wringing after a team of trained soldiers who were right there making real time decisions?

*Well, "the decider" decided. We were politely informed that our opinions mattered not one jot not tittle. Well, we were called traitors really, but some words are more flexible than others.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:06 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyone reading this as straightforward "they shouldn't have killed him" hand-wringing is missing the point, predictably. Rundle is much too smart for that. He doesn't always make perfect sense, especially when Crikey's apparent refusal to proofread anything they publish leaves his articles strewn with misspelled words and entire paragraphs that don't mean anything, but recently they seem to have picked up their game a little bit (or just asked him to self-edit) and the stream of solid gold post-Marxist/existentialist fever dreams in written form he's been producing for them for the last couple of months has already justified my Crikey subscription. Take Kitsch as kitsch can:
The worst thing about the NSW Greens adoption of the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaign against Israel is that it simply mirrors the right’s obsession with the country, making it a shared focus for a politics (old new leftism in this case) that is feeling pretty exhausted itself. But they were saved from looking bad by the hysterical right looking worse — with David Penberthy comparing the campaign to Kristallnacht, a simple and effective demonstration that a) he’d seen Schindler’s List, and not much else, and b) he had no real moral understanding of the events he was referring back to.
On Libya:
The great sin of the Libyans is that they have left no role for the West but a supplemental one — to support a people making their own history.
Circling the drain:
Yet no matter how obvious this contradiction becomes, conservatives will always trade on the fantasy that you can have both — that the market, globalisation, can be as raw and forceful as you like, without itself damaging shared meaning or some form of consensual existence. When the reality of people’s lives departs from this fantasy to such a degree that it cannot be talked away, a fantasy problem with a fantasy solution must be developed to explain it. In our era that fantasy is expressed by the word “multiculturalism”.
I would link to others, including "Birtherism bound for half-remembered dance craze status", but they're mostly paywalled. It's not that I always agree with him, or even know what the fuck he's talking about all of the time, it's that he is pretty much the only mainstream or semi-mainstream commentator in this country willing to take risks, to write with an obvious sense of excitement about writing, to refuse to address the imaginary 12-year-old newspaper reader who 99% of this country's journalism is aimed at.

Well, there's Bob Ellis, but let's not go there. Keep it up, Guy.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:10 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone reading this as straightforward "they shouldn't have killed him" hand-wringing is missing the point, predictably. Rundle is much too smart for that. He doesn't always make perfect sense...

Hahaha, you silly fools you missed his point, even if he doesn't always make perfect sense!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:17 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


my feeling is that your definition of humanity is entirely too broad.

Or perhaps yours is far too narrow. I'd be curious to know which lines you'd draw, just so I know who isn't human from your point of view.
posted by hippybear at 7:21 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


What some of you are missing is that the point of a government that respects rule of law is not that it obeys the laws when it's convenient, but that it obeys the law all the time (or at least, makes best attempts to).

Please don't tell me "The Constitution is not a suicide pact" (not that you did, but I hear that a lot...) To equate a small, perhaps zero, amount of increased risk to committing suicide is ridiculous, it's to say that every line of the Constitution has an asterisk on it leading to the fine print at the bottom: "Except where it conflicts with National Security."

These terrorists are small beans - even the US governments admits that there are only few hundred Al Qaeda members operating in Afghanistan - and if they caused the US to tear up its great Constitution, well, they won.

The moment when the US took the Nazis - the Nazis, who came within a stone's throw of taking over the world! - into a courtroom and before the entire world, tried them as fairly as possible, so fairly that some defendants actually walked free - that was an astonishing moment for world justice, and the US's star shone very brightly then.

In 2011, the US tortures prisoners to extract data to send warriors to deliberately shoot an unarmed criminal in the head rather than try him - and then justifies these steps on the basis of expediency. It is a sad day...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:30 AM on May 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


the point of a government that respects rule of law is not that it obeys the laws when it's convenient, but that it obeys the law all the time

QFMFT
posted by hippybear at 7:36 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


the fact that he got killed instead could simply be a case of "crazy-ass shit going down during the raid and people making the best judgement they could during the confusion" as opposed to "they meant to do him in all along".

That could easily be, but aren't these Navy SEALs touted as being super cool and controlled under fire? A Navy SEAL has to pass rigorous testing for mental toughness and is pretty much more than a man.

If I had been there under that pressure and holding an automatic rifle, one little noise and I would have sent bullets flying everywhere -- Sorry about the friendly fire, guys! Here, let me hold that tourniquet for you, buddy! -- but a SEAL is supposed to be the sort of killer that doesn't flinch.

So if the goal was to capture people, it is interesting that they ended up killing four out of the five people there, even though only one had a gun. Maybe it wouldn't be fair to call them sloppy and inept, but they certainly didn't succeed in bringing people back for trial. If the goal was to just blow heads off, though, they certainly earned their pay.
posted by pracowity at 7:48 AM on May 6, 2011


That could easily be, but aren't these Navy SEALs touted as being super cool and controlled under fire? A Navy SEAL has to pass rigorous testing for mental toughness and is pretty much more than a man.

If I had been there under that pressure and holding an automatic rifle, one little noise and I would have sent bullets flying everywhere -- Sorry about the friendly fire, guys! Here, let me hold that tourniquet for you, buddy! -- but a SEAL is supposed to be the sort of killer that doesn't flinch.


"Mentally tough" doesn't mean "completely 100% infallible," though. And I'm not implying the caught the vapors or panicked and shot to kill, either -- more like "so-and-so saw something he thought was a gun and shot" or something similar.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:02 AM on May 6, 2011


> 1) Again, none of us were there and frankly it seems there was sketchy live feed (probably only audio) from the team on the mission.

This seems like BS to me. If I can get a tiny camera for two hundred bucks, attach it to my helmet when biking, and get high-frame rate, good quality audio and video out of it, why can't they?

And in fact they can and do. Helmet cameras are standard issue for all sorts of missions. So why not this one?


> 2) Only a portion of the Seal team would have been present when Osama was killed, so only a few people know what actually happened. It would be pretty easy to get some details wrong in the hours after the raid.

No, I don't understand why this should be "pretty easy".

The way that confidential missions are supposed to work is that each officer or soldier on the mission is immediately and individually debriefed by a superior officer who then prepares a report for the commanding officer, who completely controls the information flow - if any of the soldiers or officers reveals any information about the mission to anyone, military or otherwise, they can and probably will be courtmartialed.

These people are supposed to be trained professionals, the cream of the cream, I'm sure they know how to do it right and should do it as a matter of routine - moreover, at least the way they are reporting it, the mission went smoothly (the downed helicopter, while a loss, is typical for such an exercise) so it's not like they had to debrief dying marines in a medivac...

Basically, you're saying, "Everyone is completely incompetent and dropped things all over the floor in a public fashion." I guess I'd believe that.

The correct way to do this, the way that, say, large companies often do when they have some important news to impart like this, is to do it in two parts - first you announce only the top-level details, suspend trading if you're publicly owned, and tell people to wait for the details. Then somewhat later your CEO gives a detailed briefing.

In this case, they should have announced, "The United States has found and killed Osama Bin Laden. The President will make an official announcement [24 hours later]."

During that time they go and make sure their stories are straight and terms are correct and then Mr. Obama gets to go out and give a speech that's as close as possible to the truth.

But this - this is embarrassing. "Well, we didn't debrief people properly and then we allowed a lot of different sources to talk to the media and we ourselves didn't really know what was going on."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:12 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


The moment when the US took the Nazis - the Nazis, who came within a stone's throw of taking over the world! - into a courtroom and before the entire world, tried them as fairly as possible, so fairly that some defendants actually walked free - that was an astonishing moment for world justice, and the US's star shone very brightly then.

In 2011, the US tortures prisoners to extract data to send warriors to deliberately shoot an unarmed criminal in the head rather than try him - and then justifies these steps on the basis of expediency. It is a sad day...


I guess it matters a lot if you consider this to be a military action in the context of a war or a police action in the context of international crime. By the time the Nazis were being tried, they had already surrendered, whereas before that the US had no qualms about killing unarmed civilians in their attempts to end the war. While the Nuremberg Trials were being organized, the US was busy dropping atomic bombs on major civilian targets in Japan.

The fact that terrorist organizations can be state-less makes it tricky to put it in the context of conventional warfare, but killing any member of the opposing side during a military conflict (let alone the leader) has historically been considered to be justified. At any rate comparing captured prisoners of war after an unconditional surrender to leaders of active terrorist organizations is not really a good fit, regardless of what the ethical standards should be in either case.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:12 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


The moment when the US took the Nazis - the Nazis, who came within a stone's throw of taking over the world! - into a courtroom and before the entire world, tried them as fairly as possible, so fairly that some defendants actually walked free - that was an astonishing moment for world justice, and the US's star shone very brightly then.

Nice to think so, but Nuremberg wasn't a U.S. court proceeding. The United States was just one of nine countries that took part, and the whole thing was the UK's idea in the first place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:15 AM on May 6, 2011


For one thing, Bin Laden could have spilled information regarding US support of the Afghan rebels during the 1980s against the Soviets. We helped them with, among other things, weapons and training, and probably helped provide conduits for funding by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.

You do realize that this is so well known that it was dramatized in a movie starring Tom Hanks, right?
posted by dhartung at 8:28 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


> before that the US had no qualms about killing unarmed civilians in their attempts to end the war.

The US did in fact have great "qualms" about killing unarmed civilians which is reflected in numerous documents, debates and cases where they refrained from attacking because of the havoc it would wreak. Sure, they DID kill great quantities of unarmed civilians, Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, etc - but so did the Nazis and the Japanese.

It is strange to compare "terrorists" to the Axis during World War II because the magnitudes are so very different - the argument that "the free world was fighting for its life" had a lot of power then, the Nazis were really evil and were the most powerful military force in the history of the world to that point, and they seemed to be winning!

And yet, for the most part, no one resorted to torture or shot unarmed high-ranking prisoners in the head - even though the Nazis ended up killing three orders of magnitude more humans than Al Qaeda ever did - as in thousands of times as many...

> Nice to think so, but Nuremberg wasn't a U.S. court proceeding.

Oops, you're quite right there, sorry about that - doesn't really invalidate my argument but the credit should be shared. Perhaps rephrase it as:

There was a time when the world shared the idea that criminals should be brought to public justice, but now they can just be shot because everyone knows they are guilty. Bah.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:33 AM on May 6, 2011


So the question remains: on whose behalf was Eichmann being tried, and by whom? The answer is, by Israel as a representative of humanity.

Or "as a representative of the Jewish people", whose interests had been -- to put it politely -- underrepresented on the world stage to that point. That's how it's portrayed in contemporary accounts.


zvs, Eichmann committed crimes directly against more than Jews - gypsies & homosexuals, for two - all of which were underrepresented in the world stage.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:39 AM on May 6, 2011


Osama was not a prisoner. Just try to stick to reality for a change.
posted by Wood at 8:39 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was a time when the world shared the idea that criminals should be brought to public justice, but now they can just be shot because everyone knows they are guilty. Bah.

I'm not even sure everyone "shared" that idea even back in the day. For every person who wanted the Nazis brought to justice, I'm fairly sure there were just as many people who wanted them all shot on sight. In fact, I'm certain many were. The British Army also trained a special unit for an attempt to assassinate Hitler.

The reason things look rosier in the past is because we are looking 60 years back, and all of the conflicts of opinion and second-guesses and arguing got resolved finally and this just was what happened. There were just as many arguments for and against assassination of Nazis then as there are for and against assassinating Bin Laden now.

The Nuremberg Trials look good because the photo was developed and is hanging in a very attractive frame. This week's actions are still at the Fotomat.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:42 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I loved Mazes and Monsters.
posted by clavdivs at 9:21 AM on May 6, 2011


This piece is less about OBL, and more about the people and system that killed him. It's surprising to see so many miss that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:32 AM on May 6, 2011


The US did in fact have great "qualms" about killing unarmed civilians which is reflected in numerous documents, debates and cases where they refrained from attacking because of the havoc it would wreak. Sure, they DID kill great quantities of unarmed civilians, Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, etc - but so did the Nazis and the Japanese.

What does the fact that the Axis powers also carpet bombed have to do with it? My point was that your claim that "the US's star shone very brightly then" with regard to the end of World War II is not really supported by what actually happened. At the end of the war, the US spent 9 months bombing literally every major city in Japan, including two nuclear bombs, which ended up killing over a half a million civilians. That bombing campaign was purposely designed to target civilian targets and regardless of any documented doubts, traded hundreds of thousands of lives of innocent people for the end of the war. Ethically justified or not, it was a terrible loss of life and dwarfs the total amount of casualties on all sides in the current conflicts with al-Queda. So the idea that the US was some sort shining example of restraint back in 1945 when they purposely killed a significant percentage of the total population of Japan is way off base in my opinion. I don't advocate war or killing in general, but as far as "terrible things the US has done in a war" are concerned, killing one of the opposing leaders doesn't even make the list in my opinion.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:38 AM on May 6, 2011


a kind of systemic insecurity on the part of the American empire, in that it could not even trust in its own rules to administer justice to the worst of its offspring

Michael Moore:

Which reporter has the courage to say it? "American-armed terrorist from the 80s, Osama bin Laden, was killed earlier today by America."
posted by Trurl at 9:47 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


US Government Psy-Ops - The 'Killing' of Osama Bin Laden

Now that is some sweet, sweet nuttiness right there. If nothing else, I suppose Bin Laden's death will provide aficionados of political whackadoodlery with many hours of entertainment to come. Which is good because the truthers are too sad and the birthers have become dull.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:55 AM on May 6, 2011


Yes, the bombings at the end of the war were morally very hard to justify. The Nuremberg trials were however a bright spot.

> The Nuremberg Trials look good because the photo was developed and is hanging in a very attractive frame. This week's actions are still at the Fotomat.

So we can't even discuss it, eh?

OK, then, let's throw away the Nuremberg trials and simply say that shooting your enemy in cold blood because it's more convenient is abhorrent and a civilized society that believed in the rule of law would have had trials of this common criminal Bin Laden in accordance with the rule of law.

Actually, this is sort of a waste of time. There are really two divergent camps here. The camp I'm in believes that the rule of law means the government always has to obey the law to the limits of their ability - that the President should consider upholding his oath to protect the Constitution over everything else. The other camp believes that the rule of law is conditional for the government on other matters like "National Security". We're not going to agree.

Yes, yes, I've read the legalistic arguments that, because of some sort of status like "enemy combattant" that Bin Laden had no legal protection under the law - bogus sophistry. The essence of law is that criminals get a trial, not that they are killed out of hand because "everyone knows" they are guilty. A government that subverts this protection with weasel words and memoranda is subverting the rule of law.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:20 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


> The Nuremberg Trials look good because the photo was developed and is hanging in a very attractive frame. This week's actions are still at the Fotomat.

So we can't even discuss it, eh?


Please don't put words in my mouth.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:35 AM on May 6, 2011


The camp I'm in believes that the rule of law means the government always has to obey the law to the limits of their ability - that the President should consider upholding his oath to protect the Constitution over everything else.

I used to be in that camp. But then I realized the government I learned about in civics class wasn't like that and hasn't been like that in a long, long time. The fact that Guantánamo exists reinforces that.

I would have loved if Obama had the seals take OBL alive and that he was given a fair trial and given a sentence worthy of his crimes. But that narrative wouldn't have happened either. There would be a huge issue over where to put him while the government figured out a military or civilian court. And where that court would be. Should it be televised? It would take far more years than OBL had left. And the trial would make people feel good because we used our just system to convict. He would be presumed innocent until proven guilty in court. Just like anyone else! After thoughtful deliberation, he would be executed and his body disposed of in accordance to Islamic tradition. Yay!

In 21st Century America, it is about revenge. Fuck the courts, Americans want blood! Many of those complaining that OBL was buried at sea, I think really wanted him to taken care of Mussolini style.

And from a purely political standpoint people like lupus_yonderboy would give Obama a lot of credit for doing the right thing. I would give him a lot of credit for it. But a lot of Americans would think that not killing OBL when they had a chance is proof that Obama is a pussy and he might has well have botched the mission like what happened to Carter in the Iran hostage rescue. So Obama gets cred from even the warhawks.

Again, I want to believe in that America I learned about as a child, but I don't think it actually ever existed. We can try and do better, but I'm not going to fall on my sword for Osama bin Laden.
posted by birdherder at 10:44 AM on May 6, 2011


Guy Rundle

I enjoyed this post and thread, but can I ask about the value of linking a Google search as one of the links? Is it just to short-circuit perhaps inevitable questions of "Who's Guy Rundle?" that you have to answer with "HERE'S GOOGLE YOU WAD"?

It just seems like search results are dynamic enough that you can't really count on the link having the same meaning in the future. I could be wrong and this may have been discussed.
posted by kingbenny at 10:49 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want to believe in that America I learned about as a child, but I don't think it actually ever existed.

This is precisely what I was getting at in my points about the Nuremberg Trials -- that the idealized "Good Old Days" and "The Noble Way We Used To Be" never was. Things in the past only seem to be obvious and clear and sensible because we have time as a focus of perspective. If we were to go back in time to the time of the Nuremberg Trials, I wager that the zeitgeist would be just as chaotic and contentious as it seems today.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:50 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, yes, I've read the legalistic arguments that, because of some sort of status like "enemy combattant" that Bin Laden had no legal protection under the law - bogus sophistry.

How else do you describe someone who is actively leading a military group that has declared war on the United States? This is not a Jose Padilla case where a US citizen arrested in the US is declared an enemy combatant to avoid a normal criminal trial, this is the head of a military organization that is actively fighting a war. And ignoring all of the legal aspects, if you are the leader or member of an actual military force that is actively fighting another army, it shouldn't be too surprising when members of the opposing army show up and shoot you, whether or not you are actually holding a gun at the moment.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:14 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is precisely what I was getting at in my points about the Nuremberg Trials -- that the idealized "Good Old Days" and "The Noble Way We Used To Be" never was.

I think the other key difference between OBL and the Nuremberg Trials was the key dude in the Nazi regime did the world a favor and offed himself before the Allied troops even had a chance to wonder if they should capture of kill him. Nuremburg also has so many war criminals to prosecute.

But I agree, there never were good old days. If only there were.
posted by birdherder at 11:28 AM on May 6, 2011


I think the other key difference between OBL and the Nuremberg Trials was the key dude in the Nazi regime did the world a favor and offed himself before the Allied troops even had a chance to wonder if they should capture of kill him. Nuremburg also has so many war criminals to prosecute.

Which is all the more reason why the idea of pointing at them and saying "but look we were so very very noble in the past why could we not have been like that today" is not quite helpful.

But I agree, there never were good old days. If only there were.

This is one of the first things I learned after reading history -- spin is everything.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:31 AM on May 6, 2011


This is one of the first things I learned after reading history -- spin is everything.

I thought the same thing until I was tasked to make a thesis from primary sources.

For instance, researching the french revolution, it is wise to suspect works written by scholars in Vichy France, though they should not be discounted, it serves to support a better, more accurate thesis.
posted by clavdivs at 1:26 PM on May 6, 2011


If people really want to think that Bin Laden was somehow the 'offspring' of US policy that's up to them, but it's pretty racist to think that nobody has agency in this world except Americans

Uh, bin Laden has said himself that his attacks on US targets were in large part a retalliation to US policy and the continued presence of US troops in the Middle East, so his agency doesn't have to be questioned at all when making that observation.
posted by Hoopo at 1:57 PM on May 6, 2011


Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Adolf Eichmann -- and Revenge
posted by homunculus at 3:53 PM on May 6, 2011


I enjoyed this post and thread, but can I ask about the value of linking a Google search as one of the links? Is it just to short-circuit perhaps inevitable questions of "Who's Guy Rundle?" that you have to answer with "HERE'S GOOGLE YOU WAD"?

A bit of that kingbenny, but also I looked for a decent synopsis of Guy's writings and the best, most relevant result happened to be the google search, so it was in fact a considered decision.
posted by wilful at 4:23 PM on May 6, 2011


Guy Rundle wrote: [Israel's] Arab indigenous population, like the Australian indigenous, did not have voting rights until 1967

Guy Rundle needs to learn how to use Wikipedia; not only did Arabs have voting rights from the beginning of the State, but the first Israeli government (led by ben Gurion) was actually in coalition with an Arab party.

And for the record, calling Israeli Arabs "indigenous" is a racist and Eurocentric way of looking at the complicated history of a place that has been the crossroads of the world for thousands of years. Either everybody born in Israel is indigenous or nobody is.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:49 AM on May 7, 2011


I guess I should have said one of the crossroads of the world. I didn't mean to be Levantcentric.

Uh, "crossroads" isn't meant to have any theological implications. I just meant that the whole of the Fertile Crescent ... damn.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:33 AM on May 7, 2011


With the killing of Osama bin Laden, Barack Obama's presidency has taken a new course -- and so has America, and the world.

Obama is winding up the Bush era of large-scale territorial war, and substituting for it targeted, limited missions, favouring assassination (often by third-party forces), strategic bombing and air operations.

The strategy -- which will presumably be given a boost by the cache of information obtained from the bin Laden raid -- will allow the US to do further damage to the already frayed and scattered al-Qaeda organisation.

Though al-Qaeda has never been any sort of real threat to the US or other Western states, it was able to land a few lethal blows for a few years. That power was much diminished even before bin Laden was killed; now its activities are largely confined to the Arab world.

Arguably, its continued operations there strengthen the US by obstructing the genuine political development as expressed by the "Arab spring" uprisings.

Nevertheless, the outfit remains defined against the US, and by gradually winding it up, Obama will be dealing with a genuine enemy. Should the missions be conducted with minimum civilian casualties and civil disruption, it will make his country safer (a few botched ops, and the reverse will be the case).

Politically, the strategy may yield great or greater rewards at home. It's a way for Obama to become a foreign policy President for the second part of his first term, but also to differentiate himself from the Bush era.

Obama will identify himself with targeted, well-planned operations, success, modest claims and real achievement. By contrast, the Bush era will increasingly be seen as the era of sprawling, badly executed disasters, failure, bombastic declarations and geopolitical fantasy.

Thus, the remnants of the Bush era will be subsumed into Obama's agenda. Quite likely that will involve a simultaneous push against al-Qaeda outposts, a deal with the Taliban and an announcement of a substantial Afghanistan withdrawal.

The post-territorial nature of the anti-al-Qaeda offensive will be presented as a new form of liberal projection of power -- modular, efficient, franchised, low cost in American lives. Essentially, it's a type of postwar that can be sold to conservatives and much of Obama's liberal base.

Conservatives will like the unilateral projection of power, and the assertion that the US remains a special case that can breach others' sovereignty at will, in protection of its own.

Liberals will like the absence of swagger, the creation of a type of "smart" postwar that applies all the features of the world in which liberals live -- networked solutions, abstract project management, minimal environmental impact -- which will make it appear natural to many of them.

The involvement in Libya, rather then being the third in a series of neocon wars, is really the first in these series of postwars, incursions more limited even than Clinton's Balkans campaigns.

The efficient management of such a strategy will leave conservatives nothing to say. They will not be able to accuse Obama of "cutting and running", since targeted missions will be the context in which selective withdrawal is occurring; any appeal for more "boots on the ground" will simply remind the country of the pre-Obama era when nothing went right.

Liberals will not be disturbed by the multiple breaches of sovereignty, as long as it does not involve territorial occupation. When the antiwar left (and the libertarian right) object to such extension of power on sovereignty grounds, it will sound archaic, old-fashioned.

Non-territorial postwar cuts with the grain of a borderless world; it's the Amazon/UPS/Netflix war -- there as soon as you order it (and the occasional f-ck up).

Such a strategy -- call it ultrawar, "ultra-" in its meaning of "beyond" -- has further political ramifications. It conforms to the unique powers of the US President, a leader who can do whatever he likes abroad, but can't change the parking laws in downtown Boise.

Obama's steady, ordered, "ultrawar" will, should it go well, compare favourably to the continued tepidity of the American economic recovery. Obama will have to wear responsibility for that too, but it will be shared with the Republican-controlled Congress -- and, if Obama can gather some residual political skills, he will be able to sheet most of the blame home to it.

This policy is already providing political dividends. Following the bin Laden raid, Obama's presidential approval numbers are at 51%. Whether they will last remains to be seen (as every conservative columnist has noted) -- but it's worth comparing the approvals ratings for Congress.

Four months after the Democrats ceded control of the House of Reps, and the face of Congress became that of GOP leader John Boehner, approval ratings of Congress have hit ... 20%, where they were under the Democrats.

Doubtless, Obama can lose this current lead, but the Republicans are beginning to realise that they're boxed in a corner. They no longer have the cache of insurgency of 2009-2010, headed by the semi-real Tea Party movement.

The Tea Party has now been stood down by Fox News and FreedomWorks and the other lobby groups that funded and organised them (neither TeaPartypatriots nor TeaPartyexpress, the two major, feuding Tea Party groups list any events on their websites, which have become ghost net-billboards).

There are two major problems for the Republicans. The first is the debt ceiling, the official limit on how much the US can borrow, set by Congress. Since Congress also ratifies the money borrowed, the ceiling is a ridiculous entity, a tool of politics. The US will hit its current limit -- $14.6 trillion -- on May 16, but no agreement to raise will have been negotiated by then.

The US has until early August before it would fully default. From now until then, the Republicans will play a game of chicken trying to extract concessions. But no matter how many they gain, they will eventually have to raise the ceiling -- at which point they own the debt.

Their other problem is a growing split on foreign policy, as the hitherto minor conservative antiwar position begins to assert itself. The Libya involvement was a disaster for the Republicans, with mainstream figures such as Mitt Romney tucking in behind Obama, opportunists such as Newt Gingrich advocating it, then opposing it when Obama committed to it. Other conservative boosters have gone all the way across.

With that confusion, the clarity of Ron Paul's position -- opposed to all US militarism -- has had a magnetic effect, drawing in the now fully fledged cartoon figure Sarah Palin, and tempting others to a variety of positions that diminish national security, and try to return the debate to the domestic sphere. This means the Republicans are going into the campaign with half a dozen positions on American power, i.e. like Democrats.

The whole thing makes for a dramatically reversed politics. It is unlikely to restore Obama to the full glory of 2008, or anything like it. But with 365 electoral college votes, the Republicans would have to take six or seven states back, and hold Missouri. They will need to be united, and on point, and last week they got caught up in a war.
posted by wilful at 10:14 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed this post and thread, but can I ask about the value of linking a Google search as one of the links?

Hey, buddy, take it to MeTa. ^_^!

Nice political analysis, wilful. Obama certainly knows which way the wind blows in America, and it turns out that most Americans are not only totally fine with torture and indefinite military detention, they are also fine (even gung-ho) about military assassinations, whether by drone or by SEALs, even of American citizens, so, yeah, kill OBL and you win ... something. I suppose the 2012 election, but there wasn't too much doubt there anyway.

I suppose 9/11 did change everything, at least (hopefully) for (only) a little while.

This month's Harper's articles about the military are rather applicable: Owned by the army and The dangerous myth of the Good War.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:06 AM on May 10, 2011


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