Monday, May 2, 2011

Thoughts on the Death of Bin Laden

As most of the world found out last night, Osama/Usama (?) Bin Laden was killed last night in a nighttime raid by U.S. Navy SEALs on his well-fortified fortress in Pakistan. News reports indicate it was a short struggle -- 40 minutes and the architect of the September 11 attacks was dead, along with a few other collaborators. This news resulted in an amalgam of sentiments, an overwhelming amount which were positive, in addition to speculations of its implications. Most of the latter were on its impact on President Obama's reelection bid for 2012. I just thought to summarize the viewpoints I've been hearing about, as well as add in a few of my own.

Let's first examine at the implications being expressed by both individuals and by the media:
  1. Obama just locked up the reelection bid.
  2. Obama just capped up a "winning" week, with his snub of Donald Trump and this news.
  3. Note to other terrorists: do not mess with the U.S. of A.
  4. So proud to be an American!
  5. This news just made my day!
Indeed the death of an individual responsible for more than 3000 deaths on September 11 and reshaping our world forever is to be celebrated. Al-Qaeda has certainly complicated the security issues surrounding our current environments. It also brings an end to a 10-year hunt for Bin Laden, who the former President Bush memorably conjured the "wanted sign" for a bounty on the person's head. But I feel that most people have either forgotten or just ignored the preface to the terrorist attacks.

(Before I proceed, I became a U.S. citizen last year through the naturalization process and am proud to consider myself to be an American. Yet at the same time, it is important to be critical of my government and the thoughts of the populace when I feel they are going down the wrong path. What I just stated is the essence of what being a patriot is all about.)

American imperialism is the main trigger for the September 11 attacks. Other explanations are negligible compared to the impact of America's attitudes and actions against other countries around the world. Yes, I know it doesn't sound pleasant but it is very true. We Americans live in a place very much secluded -- often voluntarily-- from the rest of the world. Most Americans simply do not care about the state of the world affairs, and possess this attitude of "We are better than anyone else". Representative of this arrogance, the American government has been at war with other countries for most of the last 200 years. We all know about the Second World War, Korean War, and Vietnam War. But how many of us know of the controversial actions taken by the government, such as the assassination of former leaders of nations (e.g. Salvador Allende) and the propping up of despotic governments (e.g. Shah of Iran, Cuba before Fidel Castro)? It is the latter that have profoundly instilled a mixture of fear and hatred towards the U.S. Unfortunately, the latter sentiment cannot be altered by sporadic humanitarian gestures.

When the U.S. attacked Iraq in the 1990s, it was rightfully under the guise to uphold the sovereignty of Kuwait. Saddam was beaten back and ultimately surrendered. But the U.S. often operates under the assumption that it is above the law of nations to which all countries are subject to. The political science term is "unilateralism", which stems from the U.S.'s position as the world's remaining superpower since the demise of the Soviet Union. This assumption results in taking actions regardless of opinions of other countries or peoples. For many in the Middle East and across the world, Bin Laden's planned attacks on September 11 were captivating for the sheer fact that he dared to stand up to the mighty of the American military machine. If anything, it damaged this image of America's invincibility and showed that she could be hurt in spite of all the military power.

Using film as an analogy, it is very much in the second Iron Man movie, where the villain Ivan Vanko stated his only reason to attack Tony Starks was to "make God bleed [because then] people will cease believing in him". Bin Laden, in a similar manner, destroyed the myth of America's invulnerability. And this is what makes things so dangerous, even following his death. Bin Laden was an inspiration for the haters of America to take up arms against her -- and inspirations tend to outlive their creators. Therefore, we should be weary (as some military strategists have declared already) of declaring total victory just yet. I will argue that unless this arrogance perception of the world is changed, very little will have. Another madman may come along to formulate another plan to make America "bleed". This just leads to an endless cycle of violence -- because of the hatred for the country we call United States.

Going back to the implications discussed in the beginning of this blog entry, Obama will take/receive credit about the death of Bin Laden and I think it is largely unwarranted. He simply inherited the operations from the previous president and it so happened that Bin Laden was found and killed during his presidency. He did not have an alternative to hunting down Bin Laden. If it does propel him to a second term, I really hope this is not the reason why.

Now now, I do not hate Barrack Obama. I think he is a positive change from Bush, but has largely fallen short of expectations and remains over-hyped. Inasmuch as Bin Laden was killed during his presidency, in the same way Obama inherited a dismal economy from Bush. He may not have done as much as I had hoped, but perhaps there is nothing more he can do.

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