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The "50-50" Proposition
October 29, 2012 8:44 PM   Subscribe


 
Read this in VF when it landed on our doorstep. VF has been consistently producing some excellent journalism over the past few years, it's unfortunate that they run alongside pieces like the one about the Brandt brothers (I won't link it, they're vacuous).
posted by arcticseal at 8:56 PM on October 29, 2012


Burn in hell, Osama. If there is one, burn in it.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:10 PM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I always have a hard time reconciling the interest articles in Vanity Fair with their covers.
posted by skycrashesdown at 9:14 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


skycrashesdown: You and me both.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:23 PM on October 29, 2012


What is more likely is that the SEALs had no intention of taking bin Laden alive, even though no one in the White House or chain of command had issued such an order.

Lulz. I suspect that part of the story will sound considerably different in 10 or 20 years.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:24 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


I mean, we're supposed to believe soldiers decided on their own, "Oh it's the greatest villain of our time, who might have intelligence that could save thousands of lives. The President didn't say anything either way, so I'll just go ahead and shoot him on my own initiative. Just to be safe."
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:26 PM on October 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


HUMC, I find that kind of sentiment really gross and I hope you can take a step back and recognize that that kind of hatred and vitriol is of a kind with the hatred propagated by Bin Laden and his ilk. If there is an afterlife, I for one hope that universal forgiveness is a part of it.
posted by Scientist at 9:27 PM on October 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


If there is an afterlife, I for one hope that universal forgiveness is a part of it.

The only way humans will find peace is to stop living for a bullshit non-existent afterlife and treat everyone with equal dignity, respect and kindness in the only thing we have: the here and now.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:37 PM on October 29, 2012 [62 favorites]




quote for those interested:
A few sceptical voices in the Occupy Handbook point out that many of the 99 per cent are perhaps not so different from the 1 per cent as they imagine. Though they haven’t got as much money, they have enough for their life experiences to be comparable: they like comfort, and convenience, and they want their children to have these things too. Their experience of genuine deprivation is limited, though their fear of it is real enough. They deride the very rich but also quite like reading about them. They do not deride the very poor, but they do not like reading about them. Stiglitz sees no apparent anomaly in the fact that his rallying cry for Occupy Wall Street appeared in the pages of Vanity Fair, a magazine that expertly straddles the 99 per cent/1 per cent divide. Its politics are for the 99 per cent – Bush was a monstrous deceiver, Obama is making the best of a bad job etc – but the world it depicts is that of the 1 per cent, in all its excitement and variety (movie stars and bankers, heiresses and humanitarians). It is both naive and irresponsible to assume that the political representation of ideas is untouched by the pictorial representation of glamour.
posted by anewnadir at 9:41 PM on October 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


Christopher Hitchens 37:28

What happens to Mohamed Atta when he gets to the gates of paradise?

He' ushered in. "Well welcome. Now let me see, who don't you know. Here's mister Thomas Jefferson." They shake hands. "Here's mister James Madison." They shake hands. "Here's mister George Mason...."

Mohammed Atta: "Well okay, but what is all of this?"

"You said you wanted seventy-two Virginians."

posted by Golden Eternity at 9:44 PM on October 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


It's strange that it took Pakistan so long to respond.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:45 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read the whole story, but I don't see any mention of the Pakistani doctor who had procured blood samples of the children at the house in order to do a DNA match. Has this been "forgotten"?
posted by hanoixan at 9:48 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Where did you read about the Pakistani doctor?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:49 PM on October 29, 2012


This is nothing but a puff piece telling us what a brave, conscientious guy the President is. He even gave the doggy treats at the end. What a guy.

Not exactly hard-hitting journalism from Vanity Fair.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:59 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


He was feeling confident. He had five days to live.

Tripe.
posted by victory_laser at 10:05 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Where did you read about the Pakistani doctor?

Brandon: The Guardian has a piece here.
posted by pompomtom at 10:07 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not to mention how their use of medical personnel as agents means serious setbacks for future vaccination drives.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:10 PM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


He even gave the doggy treats at the end.

No, he does not. He is advised to bring them if he wants to meet the team's dog. The focus of that conclusion is more on the men in the team, and their regular people-ness.
posted by raysmj at 10:15 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ridiculous, fawning, superficial: Bowden certainly has carved himself a niche. Assuming Mitt Romney wins the election, I can imagine Bowden writing another paean to The Great Ship America with Captain Romney at the helm, oars manned by all manner of "anonymous sources who declined to be named due to the sensitive national security issues involved" and Seal Team 6 members.

Disgusting.
posted by anewnadir at 10:20 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


A wicked bit of war porn. If you replace the names of primary characters with the guys from the A-Team, the Vanity Fair piece becomes a totally bad-ass Stephen J. Cannell Production. You can almost see the paper being ripped from the typewriter and tossed over the shoulder, gungho, cajun-kickass style.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:22 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


VF has been consistently producing some excellent journalism over the past few years.

Atlantic Loss is Conde Nast Gain: [Cullen] Murphy and Langewiesche to Vanity Fair
posted by wensink at 10:37 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]




Election in a week you say? Bin Laden dead you say? If only I'd known!
posted by jaduncan at 10:44 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


If anyone thinks this is superficial, or that the Seal dudes could have refrained from plugging OSB in the head, well I would invite you to pilot 2 helicopters into what is essentially enemy territory, crash one, infiltrate an armed compound, find your man, and somehow avoid defending yourself and successfully completing the mission.

Real life is not like some video game. An incredibly risky operation that somehow managed to succeed. While I don't think OSB deserved to die, and certainly did not dance in the streets, on the other hand, holy fuck that bastard ruined the lives of many, many, many people. And he's gone now.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:44 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


drjimmy11: "I mean, we're supposed to believe soldiers decided on their own, "Oh it's the greatest villain of our time, who might have intelligence that could save thousands of lives. The President didn't say anything either way, so I'll just go ahead and shoot him on my own initiative. Just to be safe.""

The thought process was probably more like "I can't tell if he's going for a gun." *pulls trigger*
posted by wierdo at 10:44 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Not to mention how their use of medical personnel as agents means serious setbacks for future vaccination drives."

The thought just now occurred to me that this "unintended consequence", which represents the callous thoughtlessness that pervades America's War on Terror - might actually have been considered quite carefully and deliberately. In other words, someone may have thought that certain demographics would deserve the suffering brought upon them by paranoia and anti-Western sentiment. Or, if not deserve, the entire thing could be just one aspect of a strategy of debilitation.
posted by Xoebe at 10:45 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bowden certainly has carved himself a niche.

Nah, he's just following the same path that Bob Woodward did. The thing about "political journalists" is that they need to curry favor with their subjects in order to do their jobs. They're all part of the machine.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:48 PM on October 29, 2012


If anyone thinks this is superficial, or that the Seal dudes could have refrained from plugging OSB in the head, well I would invite you to pilot 2 helicopters into what is essentially enemy territory, crash one, infiltrate an armed compound, find your man, and somehow avoid defending yourself and successfully completing the mission.

I think the written portrayal of the event is superficial. I wonder about the wisdom of someone being characterized as making a decision with "50-50" odds — essentially, flipping a coin. The consequences of failure were immense, and the calculation is described as: heads, do nothing; tails, shoot a bunch of adults and (potentially) children who may still be innocent of someone being mistakenly identified as bin Laden.

Either the President is amazingly reckless and that's a real issue the writer didn't bother to even question, or (most likely) the President is not that reckless and the writer's characterization of that decision and the seeming lack of data that went into the decision was hyperbole. Either way, that's not good journalism.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:54 PM on October 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Read this in VF when it landed on our doorstep.

My wife is reading it in bed. At this very moment. !!!
posted by mrgrimm at 10:55 PM on October 29, 2012


How fortuitous that Vanity Fair runs this suck-piece just before the USAn election. I remember when liberals were all over Fox News for being an uncritical lapdog of former President Bush. What a shame that they couldn't maintain their principles during a Democrat administration.

Now, tell us again about the Dear Leader personally taking charge of the assault on bin Laden's rest-home.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:58 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Please say that with more exaggeration, lazy equivalence, sarcasm, and flying spittle.
posted by fleacircus at 11:08 PM on October 29, 2012 [36 favorites]


Oh, and I really dislike pieces on military action that read like the author is furiously masturbating over people being killed.
posted by jaduncan at 11:11 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I remember when liberals were all over Fox News for being an uncritical lapdog of former President Bush. What a shame that they couldn't maintain their principles during a Democrat administration."

Yeah, it was pretty disgusting when Obama put on a flight suit and helmet and pretended to land a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier.

Fucking liberal media.
posted by bardic at 11:12 PM on October 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


And so what if it's a puff-piece? Jimmy Carter thought doing a similar thing would be easy back in '80 and it cost him re-election.

So yes, Obama rolled the dice and it worked out well. If the SEAL's had died, it would have ruined him. This is what we call "politics."
posted by bardic at 11:16 PM on October 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


An alternate view: Steve Coll, Dead or Alive, in the New York Review of Books. In short: "Killing terrorist suspects was much easier than shouldering the political risks of putting them on trial."
In the one case where [Obama] took a major political risk to try a high-profile al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist in federal court, his decision ended badly. In late 2009, on the recommendation of Attorney General Holder, Obama ordered Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the bin Laden ally who masterminded the September 11 attacks, transferred from Guantánamo to stand trial in the Southern District of New York. Republicans accused Obama of going soft and whipped up a political backlash that forced the president to retreat; Mohammed is now facing a trial before a military commission at Guantánamo.
Planning for the raid:
In planning for Abbottabad, White House lawyers would almost certainly have assured Obama that it would be legal to kill bin Laden outright. The “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” enacted by Congress a week after the September 11 attacks provided for the use of deadly force against al-Qaeda’s leaders. Also, under international and American laws arising from the rights of self-defense, if a terrorist is actively planning deadly operations, it can be legal to strike first. We know from White House disclosures that Obama seriously considered bombing the Abbottabad compound to smithereens. He demurred out of concern that it might not be clear after the attack whether bin Laden had been there at all. Yet if the president had decided on bombing, he would surely have justified his decision by pointing to the principles of self-defense, just as he uses this doctrine to justify the dozens of drone strikes he has authorized against suspected militants in countries where the United States is not formally at war.

The Abbottabad raid, as it was ultimately designed, seems to have brought into play different questions of international and American law concerning the requirement of soldiers to accept surrenders when they are offered. Having chosen to go in on the ground, Obama evidently did not wish to design a mission that precluded the theoretical possibility that bin Laden might surrender. Instead, he approved rules of engagement that made bin Laden’s surrender all but impossible.

As the SEALs prepared, Bissonnette writes, a lawyer from either the Department of Defense or the White House instructed them, speaking of bin Laden, “If he is naked with his hands up, you’re not going to engage him. I’m not going to tell you how to do your job. What we’re saying is if he does not pose a threat, you will detain him.” Klaidman, too, quotes a Pentagon official as saying, after the fact, “The only way bin Laden was going to be taken alive was if he was naked, had his hands in the air, was waving a white flag, and was unambiguously shouting, ‘I surrender.’”

What if, however improbably, bin Laden had done this? Obama’s team apparently planned to hold him on a US Navy ship at sea for a number of weeks and interrogate him about any active terrorist plots he might know about. After that, the administration probably would have shipped bin Laden to Guantánamo, reversing its policy to accept no new prisoners at that discredited facility.
An example of the paralysis over what to do after capturing a suspect:
This fantastical-sounding plan reflects upon the broader counterterrorism system’s current paralysis over the detention of suspects. Klaidman describes a telling example, little examined, that occurred at the same time as the Obama administration planned for Abbottabad. On April 19, 2011, Navy SEALs boarded a fishing boat in the Gulf of Aden and arrested Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a British-educated, alleged liaison between the al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen and al-Shabab, the militant group in Somalia. Warsame was an alleged gunrunner who knew about transnational terrorism plots; he was also “the first significant terrorist captured overseas since Obama had become president,” as Klaidman reports.

The SEALs transferred Warsame to the USS Boxer, which had been “outfitted as a kind of floating prison.” For the next two months—before and after the Abbottabad raid—the White House held “no less than a dozen secret principals or deputies meetings to resolve the case.”

They could not decide what to do with Warsame, however. If they put him on trial in federal court in New York, they would invite a repeat of the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed debacle, on the cusp of an election year. Yet if they put Warsame on trial before a military commission in a navy brig or at Guantánamo, they would signal to “the left and civil libertarians that the administration had given up on its commitment to using civilian courts to enforce the laws against terrorists…. It was no accident that Warsame was Obama’s only major capture,” Klaidman concludes, because the prolonged stalemate about what to do with him proved the rule that killing terrorist suspects was much easier than shouldering the political risks of putting them on trial.

In the end, the Obama administration secretly held Warsame at sea for seventy days, then transferred him to face criminal trial in New York federal court. As Brennan put it during the final deliberations, after Abbottabad, according to Klaidman: “We’ve proved we can kill terrorists. Now we have to prove we can capture them consistent with our values.”

Klaidman judges the outcome “textbook Obama…nuanced and lawyerly.” But the nuances obscure an obvious conclusion: the Obama administration’s terrorist-targeting and detention system is heavily biased toward killing, inconsonant with constitutional and democratic principles, and unsustainable. The president has become personally invested in a system of targeted killing of dozens of suspected militants annually by drone strikes and Special Forces raids where the legal standards employed to designate targets for lethal action or to review periodic reports of mistakes are entirely secret.
Scientist: HUMC, I find that kind of sentiment really gross and I hope you can take a step back and recognize that that kind of hatred and vitriol is of a kind with the hatred propagated by Bin Laden and his ilk. If there is an afterlife, I for one hope that universal forgiveness is a part of it.

Let me put it this way: I'm not sorry that bin Laden is dead. Not just because of the people he killed in New York, but because of all the people who subsequently died in Afghanistan and Iraq, and because of all the people who continue to suffer from the ongoing chaos and violence. What bin Laden launched was a war of futility. What did all of those people die for?
posted by russilwvong at 11:20 PM on October 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


The Guardian, 11 July 2011:
The CIA organised a fake vaccination programme in the town where it believed Osama bin Laden was hiding in an elaborate attempt to obtain DNA from the fugitive al-Qaida leader's family, a Guardian investigation has found.

[...]

It is not known exactly how the doctor hoped to get DNA from the vaccinations [...] It is also not known whether the CIA managed to obtain any Bin Laden DNA, although one source suggested the operation did not succeed.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:21 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Either the President is amazingly reckless and that's a real issue the writer didn't bother to even question, or (most likely) the President is not that reckless and the writer's characterization of that decision and the seeming lack of data that went into the decision was hyperbole. Either way, that's not good journalism.

Okay, I agree with this.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:21 PM on October 29, 2012


Honestly, I can't believe the election is even considered at stake.

Who else are progressives gonna vote for, and he also keeps Guantanamo open and assassinated OBL. Can you imagine GWB killing OBL and not getting 450 electoral votes?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:22 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


How can you be "inside" "hours"? Are feature headlines just a matter of throwing together newsy words now?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:27 PM on October 29, 2012


Bill Clinton's similar choice.
posted by Artw at 11:30 PM on October 29, 2012


How can you be "inside" "hours"? Are feature headlines just a matter of throwing together newsy words now?

While I don't think the article had anything to do with Bin Laden's final hours so was misleading, you can definitely report and analyze what happens during a period of time taking you inside the minds of those living them.

This was more inside the White House during the final hours leading up to the attack.

And yes, they have been a matter of throwing newsy words together for awhile.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:49 PM on October 29, 2012


Reference: Downfall.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:54 PM on October 29, 2012


"Oh it's the greatest villain of our time, who might have intelligence that could save thousands of lives. The President didn't say anything either way, so I'll just go ahead and shoot him on my own initiative. Just to be safe."

Do you know how many times I had an assault trooper kill the sectoid commander they were supposed to stun because, "Hey, look, he's within four spaces on the map! BANG!"
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:15 AM on October 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


It is not known exactly how the doctor hoped to get DNA from the vaccinations [...]

You wipe the injection site down with alcohol before you inject, n'est pas? Just save the cotton balls. All they were trying to show was that he was in the town. If it turns out that someone vaccinated has 25% DNA in common, well, isn't that interesting.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:21 AM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know, bin Ladin was an asshole for killing thousands of Americans, but do we have to use "Geronino" when we're killing him?

I mean, Geronimo was a native-American who resisted the intrusion of a European invasion. Do we really need to celebrate that such a thing happened, and continues to happen?

America über alles?
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:25 AM on October 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


It was strange, seeing this MetaFilter thread and reading the VF piece straight after an insomniacal reading of the MetaFilter 9/11 thread.
posted by Wordshore at 12:41 AM on October 30, 2012


I think most Americans are pretty stupid about the rest of the world and really do believe that others would suicide-bomb themselves just because they "hate our freedoms".

Really, Americans live in a very small information envelope and it would be hard to notice that if you lived there. How about that local sports team!!
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:51 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the link posted by Russilwvong, ultimately from No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden
by "Mark Owen" (pseudonym for Matt Bissonnette)
The point man’s shots had entered the right side of [bin Laden’s] head. Blood and brains spilled out of the side of his skull. In his death throes, he was still twitching and convulsing. Another assaulter and I trained our lasers on his chest and fired several rounds. The bullets tore into him, slamming his body into the floor until he was motionless.
Can someone please explain why USAn forces are trained to execute wounded prisoners? The man they murdered hadn't been identified at this point, but I can't see that it makes a difference. The USA is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and this is a pretty clear breach of several of the provisions.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:06 AM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


“O.K., this is a probability thing,” said Obama. “Leon, talk to me about this.” The director explained that following the agency’s erroneous conviction, a decade earlier, that Saddam Hussein had been hiding weapons of mass destruction—a finding that was used to justify a long and costly war—the C.I.A. had instituted an almost comically elaborate process for weighing certainty. It was like trying to craft a precise formula for good judgment. Analysts up and down the chain were now asked not only to give their opinion but also to place a confidence level on it—high, medium, or low. Then they were required to explain why they had assigned that level. What you ended up with, as the president was discovering, was more confusion.
The idea that "facing reality" involved ignoring additional probability estimates and going with the president's subjective judgment is a little troubling. "50-50" is a cliché that brings to mind a coin flip, but for a binary event like "Osama Bin Laden is the man in the Abbottabad house" it means maximum uncertainty—no information at all about whether the event is true, or information of precisely equal weight for both outcomes. There probably was an aggregate estimate, and it was probably not exactly 50-50. The president certainly did not act as if his judgment was really 50-50.

As it turns out, the "comically elaborate process" of asking lots of analysts to give numeric estimates plus confidence ratings and aggregating the results is much more effective than relying on the unstructured judgment of a few experts. The research branch of the intelligence community is working very hard on "a precise formula for good judgment," or at least good algorithms for weighing and adding up individual judgments to create one probability. In a forecasting tournament that's been running for two years now, teams using variations on this method have been very successful. (I am a participant for the Tetlock team, but far from a super-forecaster.)
posted by ecmendenhall at 1:24 AM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Huh? The 50-50 odds - I see people above mention - was on whether it's OBL or not. I'm not sure that a coin toss scenario was being applied to the venture as a whole. I do admit that the article was misleading in so far as it hazily brought odds up more than a few times and one moment they pertained to the likely success of the chosen means (for eg. that new drone-based forearm-sized missile) as against the odds that the target was OBL, or another high ranking al qaeda operative.
posted by peacay at 1:26 AM on October 30, 2012


[Guys, there are ten thousand words in this article. You don't have to respond with 10,000-word comments, but if we could maybe steer away from hackneyed one-liners and bring a little depth to the discussion instead, that would be pretty neat.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:30 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shrug, is all I got. I guess for all the good I've tried to do in my life I'm a bad person for not opposing them just shooting him from space with a missile.

Reading through the article, one can only be awed by the amount of wisdom and responsibility carried by President Barack Obama in the days preceding the raid: no rush through decisions, he once said he wanted to "sleep on it." No use of air raids or of drones to flatten Bin Laden's suspected residence, in part to avoid collateral damage. American soldiers' lives were put at risk despite this much easier alternative. No children were killed in the compound, and Bin Laden's wife who threw herself at the soldiers was not killed but shot in the calf; she and another wife were removed from the scene by a SEAL despite the risk to his own life.

Yet, it is plain that Obama was on the wrong side of the laws of war. Bin Laden froze, and was shot twice: once in the chest then once again to be sure. The shoot to kill order was absolute. That order is in plain breach of international law.


Aug 4, 2011.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:31 AM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think most Americans are pretty stupid about the rest of the world and really do believe that others would suicide-bomb themselves just because they "hate our freedoms".

Really, Americans live in a very small information envelope and it would be hard to notice that if you lived there. How about that local sports team!!


I don't know about how stupid other people are, I can only speak for myself (I'm not an American - in your book, does that make me smarter?) but it seems plausible to me that these fuckwads are targeting the States based on some muddy, illogical ideology, rather than as a result of some sort of American foreign policy.

OBL had a political agenda, and he had the money thanks to his silver-spoon upbringing, to execute it. The people who hijacked the planes into the World Trade Centre were certainly not doing so because they were fighting for social justice in Egypt or Saudi Arabia.

They wanted to start a war, and they got what they wanted.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:33 AM on October 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's just so strange to me to consider what you should do to a person who has confessed to the crimes he undertook. Outright execution doesn't seem all that bad yet in any other circumstance it would be abhorrent.

A person admitting "I orchestrated mass murder."

Does this make me a poorer person? I don't know. I guess evil wins by making me doubt myself regardless. I'm glad I'm not in charge of these decisions where innocent people may also be killed.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:38 AM on October 30, 2012


I know we place great importance on trials even when a person confesses of their own free will, but in a practical sense, what's the point? To maintain our veneer of humanity? Did Osama Bin Laden have a death sentence from the moment he claimed credit for the World Trade Center attacks?
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:44 AM on October 30, 2012


The people who hijacked the planes into the World Trade Centre were certainly not doing so because they were fighting for social justice in Egypt or Saudi Arabia.

They wanted to start a war, and they got what they wanted.


It's a complicated thing. Is it worth trying to understand what your enemy is thinking? I think so, if for no other reason than you can't really defeat an enemy until you understand what that enemy is thinking.

So this is the difficult thing to do. Put yourself in the shoes of Bin Laden. Try to understand what he was thinking. It's OK if you do that. It doesn't mean you agree with him. Just try to to understand. Turn the other cheek there (to coin a phrase).

We are in a period of rapid social disruption. Part of this has to do with the relationship between major population centers and the availability of resources. Another part of this has to do very old patterns of culture and geography surrounding those resources. There is a major conflict between what is happening now, and what historical patterns of normalcy can process.

Most people are pretty good people. Most people care about their families and the future of their communities. It's hard to gather a large group of sociopaths. How can we explain a reality of many people killing themselves in an effort to affect change? That's unusual.

I think there's a certain desperation here, because the world is changing very quickly. You or I could become desperate terrorists next year... that's how fast things are changing.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:53 AM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I dunno. I can't believe really that you had a team of Seals inside a house with bin Laden and they didn't capture him and whisk him off for some enhanced interrogation. I just can't imagine that killing him at point blank range was the game plan when a snatch and grab would have lead to an unimaginable intelligence coup in the War On Terror. The story line just doesn't add up for me. The American military goes large. Those Navy Seal guys don't act in self-defense and if the order was to capture bin Laden alive they wouldn't have shot him even if he was armed.

They made plans to take a dead body with back to base.... taking a live body couldn't be any more difficult... bin Laden was a frail man... I just can't believe that these Navy Seals could not as easily taken him alive as shot him dead.

Of course if you wanted to avoid some unpleasant tension which could arise from the Great and Mighty Ozama being held captive by U.S. forces, you could just say you shot him in the head and dumped the body in the sea and let every news outlet and political candidate repeat that mantra until it becomes fact.

Meanwhile, back at the lab, you get down to some undisturbed business with the rat.
posted by three blind mice at 2:05 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think there's a certain desperation here, because the world is changing very quickly. You or I could become desperate terrorists next year... that's how fast things are changing.

I agree with all of what you said until this. These terrorist attacks were not carried out due to economic or resource shortages. They were completely based on ideals.

Social upheaval or revolutions can be caused by desperation. Terrorist attacks on another nation can't really. Certainly not from America to somewhere else. I can't think of a single thing to be gained.

re three blind mice: Like the article said, these guys were used to compounds rigged top to bottom with booby traps including people. They were there to eliminate all threats.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:09 AM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Geronimo was a native-American who resisted the intrusion of a European invasion. Do we really need to celebrate that such a thing happened, and continues to happen?

Using "Geromino" as a code name does not celebrate the oppression of Native Americans. It celebrates a brave man's fight against injustice. You do not have to be Native American to talk about Geronimo. He is part of American history and his story should be remembered, not swept under the rug.
posted by foobaz at 2:45 AM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


These terrorist attacks were not carried out due to economic or resource shortages. They were completely based on ideals.

The last thing I want to do is defend Osama bin Laden, but I'm going to have to make this point again... bin Laden was acutely aware of oil resource allocation. He grew up in a Saudi Arabian elite family, the son of a billionaire oil man. He invested heavily in Sudan, largely because Sudan has oil resources and a troubled geopolitics. He invested personal resources fighting the Soviet Union's intrusion into Afghanistan, which was entirely an effort to run a pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Gulf. Bin Laden could reasonably cast the struggle for oil resource allocation as a religious conflict, because it is. Whoever controls energy controls belief systems. Thus the acceptance in the mideast for Jihad. The War in Afghanistan wasn't about avenging 9/11 at all, and you are a fool if you think so. That war was about building the Unocal Pipeline.

Most people don't realize how serious this shit is.

By the way... Romney definitely wants the Keystone pipeline. What's happening there?
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:46 AM on October 30, 2012


Keystone XL is getting built regardless of who is in charge. The only question is what route it will take and how much regulation they will be subject to on things like maintenance and rates.
posted by wierdo at 3:22 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Keystone XL is NOT going to be built because tar sands output dangerous levels of carbon into the atmosphere resulting in disruptive global weather patterns which cost billions of dollars of damage annually.

By the way, there's a storm on the East Coast. It's in the news...
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:29 AM on October 30, 2012


You're mistaking rationality for reality.
posted by wierdo at 3:39 AM on October 30, 2012


By the way... Romney definitely wants the Keystone pipeline. What's happening there?

It's called energy security for the United States. The majority of Canadians are rooting for Obama - hell, I'm rooting for Obama - but from our perspective, a Republican government is much more friendly to us. The postponement of the inevitable decision to green light XL has caused no small amount of political tension in Canada, notably between British Columbia and Alberta, and between BC and the federal government, which wants to pipe oil through to the coast to sell to China.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:40 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could keep arguing this point - energy and government - till the cows come home. When they do come home, we'll all have super-cheap energy from cow pie methane and the global struggle for energy will finally end. We'll all live with that shit.

Personally I blame Obama for the Frankenstorm. That's what Fox News will tell me.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:47 AM on October 30, 2012


Tangentially related*:

Q: Why did you shoot him 16 times?
A: I ran out of bullets

*The cover refers to the SAS shooting of Sean Savage, one of three IRA active service unit members shot in Gibraltar in 1988.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:11 AM on October 30, 2012


The USA is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and this is a pretty clear breach of several of the provisions.

There are a whole lotta laws, treaties and rules that are supposed to bind the actions of Government. And yet - how effective are these rules when as an ex Office of Strategic Services philosopher used to say "power comes from the barrel of a gun"? Breaking treaties and overruling a court by force is popular enough to get your face on Federal Reserve Notes.

Other than tossing yourself into the machine in an attempt to gum up the works and instead being ground so fine by the mill of justice so that you just cease to exist* - do you have an actual plan to address breaches of treaties?

*if you are dead, you can't care about injustice.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:43 AM on October 30, 2012


OBL had a political agenda, and he had the money thanks to his silver-spoon upbringing, to execute it. The people who hijacked the planes into the World Trade Centre were certainly not doing so because they were fighting for social justice in Egypt or Saudi Arabia.

They wanted to start a war, and they got what they wanted.


This is a one sided truth, which is to say that it isn't true at all. There are very real reasons why al Qaeda targets American interests and not South African interests, or Argentinian interests, or Icelandic interests. The United States, along with a few western allies, has consistently executed a policy of occupying and undermining the democratic will of the Middle East in order to maintain control over their oil resources. That's the policy.

Pick any country you'd like in the region for a demonstration of this policy. When Libya did not sell oil to western interests, it was a harbor for terrorism. When Libya briefly decided to play ball, they became an ally of terrorism even though Gaddafi was still a psychotic murderer. When Libya stopped taking orders while he dealt with the uprising, we re-remembered Gadaffi's psychotic violence, and overthrew him.

And more to the point, al Qaeda did get exactly what they wanted. bin Laden wanted to prove that America's public claims of being a nation of laws was meaningless propaganda, because he was, like many other people in the region, quite aware of what the United States government really thought about democracy, and torture, and assassinations, and violence. Since 9/11 we have proved their point. Internally we have lost half the bill of rights, and externally we have tortured thousands, killed hundreds of thousands, displaced millions, and factually done nothing but spread al Qaeda's reach from a tiny border region in Afghanistan to half of the Middle East and Africa. With the displacement of a stable Iraq with a sectarian hell, we have also set the stage for a larger regional war between Sunnis and Shias and their various state actors.

To reinforce just how wrong it is to say that "they" started a war, just imagine saying that an Iraqi terrorist attack in the United States tomorrow would be the result of the individual wanting to start a war. 9/11 in the United States is a tragedy for us because the wars we have been actively engaged in for 60 years always happen on someone else's soil. The number of people we have killed in the last decade could provide a 9/11 every single day for over a year. We hide behind "they" and "terrorist" and "evil" to excuse that behavior instead of coming to terms with the effects of supporting of large scale violence over an entire region for six decades. Then again, playing the Great Game with some region of the world seems to be the preferred suicide method of military empires, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see it happening again.
posted by tripping daisy at 5:44 AM on October 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


Interesting article; it seems the killing of Bin Laden has been in the media a lot lately. Bowden has a book out and has been making the rounds promoting it; here is a piece he wrote for Foreign Policy magazine and here is an interview on NPR. By coincidence I am in the middle of reading No Easy Day (I am just now at the part where they are assembling the team for the mission and they aren't even sure what they will be doing); it will be interesting to compare the accounts of the upper level decision makers versus how it played out on the ground. I actually wasn't too interested in reading Owen/Bisonnette's book, but I saw him on 60 Minutes and thought it was fascinating. That interview and other material can be found here.
posted by TedW at 5:48 AM on October 30, 2012


These terrorist attacks were not carried out due to economic or resource shortages. They were completely based on ideals.

Really?

When does the desire for 24/7 electrical power, the ability to drive over 55 mph, a 2000+ sq foot home, and even the whole concept of 'economic' stop being spawned from an "idea" and become a "shortage"?

Where is this line between idea/want/perceived need become some action that was not at all in any way spawned from 'an idea'?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:51 AM on October 30, 2012


Since 9/11 we have proved their point. Internally we have lost half the bill of rights

Its a great thing they were all restored and even strengthen after Bush left office and that evil man Osama was killed.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:54 AM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a one sided truth, which is to say that it isn't true at all. There are very real reasons why al Qaeda targets American interests and not South African interests, or Argentinian interests, or Icelandic interests. The United States, along with a few western allies, has consistently executed a policy of occupying and undermining the democratic will of the Middle East in order to maintain control over their oil resources. That's the policy.

OBL and al Qaeda were not interested in the democratic will of the Middle East, although I suppose the Egyptians and Saudis that hijacked the planes would have resented American influence on their countries.

On the other hand, isn't it a bit of a myth that it was the Americans that supported these corrupt regimes? American support didn't mean a damn thing during the Arab spring. OBL and Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah could have channeled their efforts into something similar, but instead they chose to decapitate people with box cutters.

Some democratic will, that.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:15 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


isn't it a bit of a myth that it was the Americans that supported these corrupt regimes?

We gave the Egyptians over one billion dollars per year for thirty years. Saudi Arabia's entire military is outfitted with American weapons. The United States provided tactical, military, and monetary support for Saddam from 1980 until 1990. We were the master puppeteer of the Shah's Iran which brutally suppressed democratic will in Iran for 26 years. What on earth are you talking about?

OBL and Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah could have channeled their efforts into something similar, but instead they chose to decapitate people with box cutters... Some democratic will, that.

So true democratic will is invading Iraq and killing tens of thousands of people in order to overturn their constitution and try to pass an Oil Law so foreign powers own Iraqi resources? As long as the people of Iraq are torn apart from large caliber bullets, or burned so badly by white phosphorous they die from shock, or left to die in hospitals that lack the infrastructure to save life, that is called democratic will?

If you're going to get smug and dismissive, you've picked the wrong issue. There is no credibility to the position that the United States is interested in democratic will in the Middle East.
posted by tripping daisy at 7:20 AM on October 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


I still can't believe that OBL was denied due process.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:35 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Due process applies to crimes, not war. The fate of "war criminals" is very different depending if they are found during or after the war's conclusion.
posted by spaltavian at 7:59 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


If this story interests you, the Navy SEAL book No Easy Day really is worth reading. It's well ghost written, the story is directly and briskly told, and the narrator is much more even and balanced than I expected.

The main takeaway I got from his narrative of the raid is they were in an active firefight and were killing anyone who looked threatening. Dark house, chaotic situation with a lot of people some of whom were shooting at them, they simply killed all the men they saw. They apparently didn't see women and children as much of a threat, which surprised me a bit.
posted by Nelson at 8:35 AM on October 30, 2012


If anyone thinks this is superficial, or that the Seal dudes could have refrained from plugging OSB in the head, well I would invite you to pilot 2 helicopters into what is essentially enemy territory, crash one, infiltrate an armed compound, find your man, and somehow avoid defending yourself and successfully completing the mission. -- KokuRyu
They somehow managed not to kill any of the women or children, were they somehow less of a threat? I suppose trying to catch him alive would have been more of a risk, but it was a risky mission to begin with. I'm sure if they had been ordered to catch him alive, they could have?

Suppose there had been an imminent terrorist attack that OBL knew about, and that we needed to stop? You think the SEALS would still have shot him and let the attack happen?

I'm kind of amazed by all these comments that seem to assume Navy Seals are somehow incapable of not just shooting people if that's not part of the plan. This isn't some SWAT team from Podunk, Georgia. It's completely ridiculous.

This operation wasn't about minimizing risk at all. If the US government wanted to minimize risk, it could have just bombed the compound. If Bin Laden didn't happen to be there, it would just have been another anonymous drone strike that no one hears about (perhaps more noteworthy in Pakistan for happening in a plush neighborhood)
I don't know about how stupid other people are, I can only speak for myself (I'm not an American - in your book, does that make me smarter?) but it seems plausible to me that these fuckwads are targeting the States based on some muddy, illogical ideology, rather than as a result of some sort of American foreign policy. -- KokuRyu
Lots of things "seem plausible". However, if there were no foreign policy trigger, why have they gone after the US? Why not Canada, or Japan, or China? This "theory" of yours can't explain that at all, so it's actually a pretty dumb one. Do you honestly think the U.S. hasn't actually done anything that would upset people in that region?
isn't it a bit of a myth that it was the Americans that supported these corrupt regimes? -- KokuRyu
No? Seriously, what is wrong with you? You're like veering into parody at this point. This level of historical ignorance is starting to become breathtaking. Of course America supported Mubarak and other regimes in the Middle East. Yes, we abandoned him in the Arab Spring, but at that point supporting the crushing of liberal, internet-savvy English speaking activists would have been completely politically untenable, especially for Obama.

So far from your comments in this thread you seem to think:

1) Navy Seals are bloodthirsty maniacs who couldn't have restrained themselves from killing OBL even if the mission was to capture him alive.

2) Al Qaeda's actions weren't based on any actual policy or strategic concerns, just by "ideals", yet somehow these "ideals" didn't cause them to go after any other secular countries, just the U.S.

3) The U.S. needs "energy security" by building the keystone XL pipeline despite the obvious problems caused by global warming and apparently a Mitt Romney presidency would be "good for Canada"

4) The U.S. wasn't actually backing middle eastern dictators like Mubarak. That was just a "myth"

All of these things are just completely laughable. I mean, what the fuck? It's the kind of gobbledygook that right-wingers spew because they assume what fits with their ideology and then work backwards from there to figure out what the "facts" are, rather then looking at the actual evidence.

---

Keystone XL is NOT going to be built because tar sands output dangerous levels of carbon into the atmosphere resulting in disruptive global weather patterns which cost billions of dollars of damage annually. -- twoleftfeet
That's obviously never stopped anyone before. It's odd that this particular project has raised such ire among the environmental movement, but since it has it may not get built just because it's not in the interests of democrats who need to raise funding from Hollywood liberal types. Just like the Yucca mountain nuclear waste storage facility has been stopped because of Harry Reid and Naveda's swing state status.
The main takeaway I got from his narrative of the raid is they were in an active firefight and were killing anyone who looked threatening. Dark house, chaotic situation with a lot of people some of whom were shooting at them, they simply killed all the men they saw. They apparently didn't see women and children as much of a threat, which surprised me a bit. -- Nelson
Interesting, but at the same time I do think they wanted him dead. Think about how much of a political problem it would have been if he had been captured alive. There would have been a huge uproar on the right if they had tried to give him a civilian trial - and the military trial system they have doesn't even work very well.

I don't think killing bin laden was some horrible crime against humanity, or anything. But it just seems kind of ridiculous to imagine that it wasn't the plan going in.
posted by delmoi at 8:50 AM on October 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


I still can't believe that OBL was denied due process.

A firefight is the worst time to be asking for a lawyer.

According to the article the team had no explicit orders to capture OBL alive, unless he was clearly giving himself up. Since the team was experienced in dealing with situations where the men where always the problem and women and children were not, they simply killed any male who was not clearly surrendering.

Could they have captured OBL alive? Yes. But the WH wasn't keen to do so and left the decision in the team's hands, which was the right decision, IMO. Let the professionals do their job and avoid micromanaging whenever possible. OBL had over a decade to surrender and chose not to. I see no reason for team risking their lives to find should give him the benefit of doubt.

I will be forever curious why OBL didn't fight back. I suspect, with no concrete evidence, that he realized a firefight would get some or all of his family killed, while his death would hopefully keep some operational secrets. Plus he might have trying to wipe certain data from the computers. Anyone know if that occurred.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:05 AM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Plus he might have trying to wipe certain data from the computers. Anyone know if that occurred.

It's not mentioned in the public sources that wiping was attempted; there was allegedly quite the haul of intelligence due to the use of not-great stenography in lieu of encryption.
posted by jaduncan at 9:51 AM on October 30, 2012


“One of the things you learn as president is you’re always dealing with probabilities,” he told me. “No issue comes to my desk that is perfectly solvable. No issue comes to my desk where there’s 100 percent confidence that this is the right thing to do. Because if people were absolutely certain then it would have been decided by someone else. And that’s true in dealing with the economic crisis. That’s true in order to take a shot at a pirate. That’s true about most of the decisions I make during the course of the day.
You know, you have to give credit to Bush where it's due. Instead of writing a philosophical treatise about what it means to be a president, he saved everyone some time by saying "I'm the decider."

George W. Bush: Hemingway to Obama's Joyce?
posted by anewnadir at 10:56 AM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know, you have to give credit to Bush where it's due. Instead of writing a philosophical treatise about what it means to be a president, he saved everyone some time by saying "I'm the decider."

YEAH, FUCK NUANCE! TALK TO US LIKE WE'RE FIVE YEAR OLDS!
posted by entropicamericana at 11:41 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is all very complicated. But you can rest assured: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, both nations heavily subsidized by the US, have huge population majorities who are against US involvement. And these majorities tend to be violent. Think of it what you want.
I personally was pleased to see OBL go to hell where he belongs, and I have no misgivings concerning the methods. But I do think the US needs to think about its communications abroad. I don't think many Pakistanis understand why Osama was killed or why his religion is wrong. Someone needs to explain this, in religious terms.
posted by mumimor at 1:57 PM on October 30, 2012


I wonder about the wisdom of someone being characterized as making a decision with "50-50" odds — essentially, flipping a coin. The consequences of failure were immense, and the calculation is described as: heads, do nothing; tails, shoot a bunch of adults and (potentially) children who may still be innocent of someone being mistakenly identified as bin Laden.

I thought the article made it pretty clear that there was 50-50 odds on their assessment that the pacer was Osama, not 50-50 odds on whether to proceed. That is, the outcome may be a coin flip, but the linked article showed very clearly that the decision was thoroughly calculated. I can't see anybody giving the entire article a fair read and coming away with a characterization of the decision itself as a coin flip.
posted by ilikemefi at 2:33 PM on October 30, 2012


While not Osama, this made me laugh hard. They never did do Osama did they?
posted by stormpooper at 2:52 PM on October 30, 2012


I can't see anybody giving the entire article a fair read and coming away with a characterization of the decision itself as a coin flip.

Let's think about what happens if there is a positive ID (whether a true or false positive). What do these officials do?

One possibility is that the US government would let Osama bin Laden go free, if positively identified. It's not impossible (say OBL was scheming another attack, and we want to keep tabs on him, etc.) but being allowed to walk free does not sound too probable an outcome for a leader of a terrorist organization.

Another possibility is that the US would try to work with Pakistan on a diplomatic level, if OBL is positively identified. Maybe we could extradite him and put him on trial. Given drone attacks and political/cultural issues, cooperation with Pakistan does not sound too likely, either. More likely that the US tries to cooperate and extremists in the Pakistan government help OBL escape.

As a logical consequence, therefore, positive identification seems to leave little room for non-military or diplomatic options: If a flip of the coin says the "pacer" is OBL, then the decision to proceed with some kind of military operation follows directly, one that involves violating another country's sovereignty and potentially killing innocent people. That is a very risky coin toss, especially if a false positive is made.

But I don't really believe that someone would make a critical decision of this kind with those odds. I think the President had a lot more data upon which to base his decision. I suspect that the writer described the decision in this manner to portray Obama as a bold and decisive leader, one who is willing to gamble in spite of the odds, which in all likelihood were nowhere near "50-50".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:14 PM on October 30, 2012


No? Seriously, what is wrong with you? You're like veering into parody at this point. This level of historical ignorance is starting to become breathtaking.

delmoi, you talk out of your ass and quote Wikipedia so much, it's really quite amusing to be called "ignorant" by you!
posted by KokuRyu at 4:15 PM on October 30, 2012






"The CIA organised a fake vaccination programme in the town where it believed Osama bin Laden was hiding in an elaborate attempt to obtain DNA from the fugitive al-Qaida leader's family, a Guardian investigation has found."

No One Is Immune: The CIA's fake vaccination program in Pakistan reveals the moral bankruptcy of American spooks.
posted by homunculus at 4:39 PM on October 30, 2012


The US is not a puppet master. Our role in the Iran coup was exaggerated by the CiA and Kermit Roosevelt in order to secure money for the agency and score political points. Some regimes are happy to take our cash and pretend that we have influence, but as we've seen in Cuba and elsewhere when the local dictator decides to ignore our influence we are pretty powerless. This is not to suggest that the US is weak, but only to say that our power is much more limited than many suggest here. Also the notions of a huge conspiracy just don't hold up. For example:

The War in Afghanistan wasn't about avenging 9/11 at all, and you are a fool if you think so. That war was about building the Unocal Pipeline.

If this was the plan where is the pipeline. It has been ten years. Unicol was minority partner in the pipeline project and only withdrew reluctantly com the project after the Embassy Bombings in Kenya and Nairobi. The Taliban were supportive of the pipeline and the US had been negotiating with them prior to 9-11 about ways to normalize relations.
posted by humanfont at 4:40 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu:

It is an established fact that the US has supported, and still supports, corrupt regimes in the Middle East. Hillary Clinton was saying nice things about Hosni Mubarak even though she knew about all the people he was torturing.

If you're going to say that US support of corrupt regimes is a myth, don't be surprised when people say you're ignorant.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:42 PM on October 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


By the way... Romney definitely wants the Keystone pipeline. What's happening there?

Progress!

Texas grandmother arrested for trespassing on her own land to protest Keystone
posted by homunculus at 4:47 PM on October 30, 2012


Although the way the president derived the 50-50 judgment was interesting, it was just about whether "the Pacer" was OBL, and wasn't really the important part of this decision. The president has been more than willing to kill innocent Pakistanis in order to kill al-Qaeda leaders, and if the judgment was wrong this would have been just an unusual raid on "a suspected al-Qaeda militant." The political (and maybe security) payoff to killing Bin Laden was so high that absent any compunctions about due process or murdering innocents, killing whoever was in the house would have been the clear decision even if the probability it was really him was way less than 50-50.

The really interesting judgment was whether the operation would succeed. If it is Bin Laden and the raid succeeds, the payoff is huge. If it's not Bin Laden and the raid succeeds, it's basically zero—another dead Pakistani. If it's not Bin Laden and the raid fails, it provokes a small but significant diplomatic crisis. If it is Bin Laden and the raid fails it's a political disaster. The real problem was limiting the tail risk of a failed raid and keeping the intended target secret in the event of failure.
posted by ecmendenhall at 5:29 PM on October 30, 2012


But I don't really believe that someone would make a critical decision of this kind with those odds. I think the President had a lot more data upon which to base his decision. I suspect that the writer described the decision in this manner to portray Obama as a bold and decisive leader, one who is willing to gamble in spite of the odds, which in all likelihood were nowhere near "50-50".
I think you're way over-estimating the downsides of a false positive. If the raid turned out to be a failure and OBL wasn't there, what would be the downside? What is the downside of all the drone strikes that kill innocent people in Pakistan now? If he wasn't there and there were casualties, they could have simply kept the entire mission classified.

The "50-50" thing is obviously nonsense. But even if the probability of success were less then 50%, it would still make political sense to try to do it. You have to weigh the probability by the expected value of the outcome.

It's like, if you had a chance to buy a lottery ticket for a dollar, and you had a "50-50" chance of winning a million dollars, of course you would do it.
delmoi, you talk out of your ass and quote Wikipedia so much, it's really quite amusing to be called "ignorant" by you!
What an odd insult. I'm quoting Wikipedia?

Do you actually think that looking things up and double checking what you say makes someone ignorant? Do you think that a non-ignorant person just makes things up and believes whatever "seems plausible" to them in their own imagination without checking?

If so, I think you may actually have those things reversed.
posted by delmoi at 6:09 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


The downside of failure was also the damage to relations with Pakistan without having anything to show for it. You wouldn't risk that for any other target.
posted by Rumple at 6:33 PM on October 30, 2012


The money quote from the vanity fair article:

the case for W.M.D. wasn’t just stronger—it was much stronger

(That is a CIA guy comparing the evidence on Hussein's weapons of mass destruction v. the evidence that the not positively identified target of our lethal force was Osama Bin Laden.)
posted by bukvich at 8:19 PM on October 30, 2012




Rush Limbaugh is a Democrat plant, right?
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:34 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rush Limbaugh is what happens to an adult when they persistently try to preserve their ideology by molding reality to fit inside of their fantasy world.
posted by tripping daisy at 5:59 AM on November 1, 2012


Oxycontin is a hell of a drug.
posted by jaduncan at 9:33 AM on November 1, 2012






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