One of the weirdest aspects of the election was this idea that “Obama got Bin Laden”.
I find/found it weird because:
a) As far as I am aware, Obama didn’t do anything to establish the hunt (Bush did that)
b) As far as I am aware, Obama didn’t do anything that speed up the hunt (though this might be debatable)
c) Was/is he seriously suggesting that another president (say McCain) would have said no to killing him?
It’s this last point that Aaron Worthing explores in this post.
So Obama perhaps was thinking of focus grouping a slogan. Something like, “vote for Obama, he killed Osama!” Or perhaps, “Vote for Obama and Biden, they killed Osama bin Laden!” Something like that. But the idea that it was some kind of amazing gutsy call was kind of laughed out of respectable politics and I didn’t hear of it again for a while.
Sadly it seems that a lot of things that should be laughed out of politics are taken seriously and a lot of things that should be taken seriously are laughed out.
But it came to mind again when I was listening Obama talk about it during the debates:
[Obama speaking] …(snip)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: And — and I make that point because that’s the kind of clarity of leadership — and those decisions are not always popular. Those decisions generally are not poll-tested. And even some in my own party, including my current vice president, had the same critique as you did. But what the American people understand is, is that I look at what we need to get done to keep the American people safe and to move our interests forward, and I make those decisions.
I dunno about you guys, but the idea that military command decisions might be poll tested is a little disturbing!
Now you can get distracted with the shameful lie he just told about Romney being opposed to the mission. But I want to focus on what he said in that last paragraph. Read it again. It was not the popular thing to do. They don’t poll test it. He even got criticism from his own party.
I remember hearing that and saying, “my God, he really does think that killing bin Laden was a difficult call.” He agonized over this. He wondered if it was the right thing to do.
Which makes no sense to me whatsoever.
It makes no sense to me either.
But we’re seeing a lot of this today. If I may pontificate a little here, we have people in our civilization who really have no idea what life is like. They think turkeys come from the freezer (witness the so-called “gaffe” when Sarah Palin stood in front of a turkey being killed before Thanksgiving). They think fertility should be turned off and on without consequence. They think the supermarket and petrol station will always be stocked no matter what happens. They think the tap should always produce drinkable water. They think that in a disaster, the government will be there to help in 3 days. And they think justice is only done when all the evidence is heard before a judge and jury.
The real world isn’t like that. Outside of our modern cities, stuff happens occasionally that means that certain ideas aren’t met. People in rural areas often have to boil water because a dead sheep fell in the creak. Electricity lines can be hit by trees and people have to switch to wood burners to stay warm. Governments never get to everyone within 3 days of a disaster. Never. Sometimes, the weather is just so bad that cabbages can’t grow and we have to switch to carrots.
And certain bad guys are had to arrest.
It’d be really lovely if Pakistan was a place that wasn’t so corrupt. But it is corrupt. It’d be nice if Pakistan was a place where you could walk into the local police station with an arrest warrant and know they’d do the job. It’d be nice to think you could knock on Bin Laden’s door with nothing more than pepper spray and ask him to step outside. But only a fool would think the world’s most wanted man would give up quietly, or that the local plod could do the job as part of his morning patrol.
So in the real world, things are less than ideal. In Pakistan, things are a lot less than ideal. Gee, maybe that’s why Osama was there? Hm.
So when we think about the real world, we start to get a picture of what might be necessary to do the job we want (arrest Osama) in the real world. Clearly, it would need an armed raid that bypasses the local constabulary. That bypasses the government even.
The question then becomes, is that justified?
Amazingly, some people say “no”. The rest of us say “well, duh – it’s the world’s most dangerous terrorist, you get him by whatever means”(after having run through much of the above very much quicker than it takes to read). Because if you don’t go after Bin Laden, people will die, cos that’s what Bin Laden does, he kills people. Yes, he might not make it out alive. But again, to not try will mean other, innocent, people will die.
It’s this sort of moral question that people seem to have such a trouble with today. This is not rocket science at all, yet people seem to be so loath to make decisions that have any sort of grey in them – it’s either 100% justified or it isn’t at all.
Friends of mine had a child that was being bullied – beaten up – at school. He was actually being reduced before their eyes to a nervous wreck. The bullies were so brazen, they actually came onto his parents’ blog to abuse him and them in full public view. They said things so horrible I’d never even seen stuff that bad even on YouTube*. That’s how bad it was. But when he actually stood up for himself one day, the school considered that “fault on both sides” and dismissed the incident. Apparently the only way to get protection from authority at this particular school was to be an utterly helpless victim and wait for authority to arrive. (Suffice to say he was removed.)
I just despair of our society when we hold our principles so tightly we forget what those principles are actually about. That we hold an ideal in such high regard that we forget why we hold that ideal.
We hold justice as an ideal to protect the weak.
Obama tells us he had to agonise over whether to apply that principle in the real world. Bush famously did not. His certainty (I believe) lost him the votes of the people whom I described above.
Perhaps that’s the divide that divides not only America, but Western society today. Our society is becoming so successful that we are losing touch with what makes it successful.
And we’re electing the fools who have lost touch to elected office, where they agnoise over decisions that would be clear cut to anyone in any previous era. But that’s not the real problem. The problem is that if we apply only slightly more subtlety to the balance we get this:
Which brings me to the news of the day, that during the attack on, on September 11, 2012
, of our embassy in Benghazi our Navy Seals were told to stand down
. We learn from Glenn Beck
that help was only forty-five minutes away, and the attack went on for hours, and yet they were not ordered to intervene.
When a quick decision had to be made, to save our personnel and to deal a defeat to the terrorists, Obama wasn’t gutsy. He was gutless.
Innocent people are dead because of that decision.
But Obama rides another day – because he killed Bin Laden don’t you know.
*This record has since been exceeded by one Breitbart hater I once made the mistake of engaging on Twitter one day. I suggested to him that Media Matters was a partisan source. He took immediate offense in strong and violent terms. Strangely his passion for solid sources didn’t stop him jumping to the conclusion that I get my facts of Fox News.