mardi 3 mai 2011

Now What?

So, Ossama bin Laden is dead, they say.

They say it was over in forty minutes, with a bullet in the brain of the Archdeacon of Evil. A hit worthy of a Tom Clancy novel or a blckbuster movie (you can bet dollars to doughnuts that it'll be both within eighteen months). Two helicopters and a couples of platoons.


They should have done that seven years ago. But they didn't. Or more precisely we didn't. Instead, we spent billions of dollars inventing new forces such as Homeland Security, expanding old forces such as the CIA or even the FBI and developping pivate forces to insure our protecton in airpots and other public places. We spent more time and energy policing ourselves than fighting terrorists.

And finally we invaded a country that had nothing whatsoever to do with the inital act - knocking down the Twin Towers in New York - in the first place. All the while continuing to build and stockpiles fleets of ships aircraft and quite an assortment of weapons that will serve no purpose in the task at hand, and be obsolete before they can ever be of any use.

What has that given us? Very little peace: The US alone is waging three wars, France has sent troops to several nations in Africa, and I don't want to guess at what the rest of the world is doing. and it has certainly given us no sense of security. Quite on the contrary. We can no longer meander in a museum without first submitting to a search of our belongings; places like the Sorbonne, which not so long ago allowed anyone to come admire the beautiful, wood panel amphitheaters, now demands that anybody entering show proper ID. We have to take off our shoes before boarding a plane; I wouldn't be surprised if we won't soon be asked to strip naked and wear only company approved garments. Once we could take a plane the way we took the subway; soon we will have to take the subway the way we take a plane.

Because nowadays everyone is a potential terrorist. That person standing next you in the bus a probably going to bomb the nearby department store. The guy in the big coat is probably going to splatter bullets in the mall. Those young people are most certainly going to raid a museum. Not ot mention all those goons who trashed the stadium.We are no longer taught to love our neighbors but to fear them.

None of this was ever inevitable. If we had spent our money on schools and hospitals rather than wars and weapons, we might have been able to detect the aspirations, the angst and the needs of a young man who instead was ignored and eventually opened fire in a mall, severely wounding a congresswoman, and killing several others. If we had developed a foreign policy that truly demanded from others a level of decency that only in truth receives lip service, maybe we wouldn't be subject to the whims of extremism, dictatorships and terrorists. If we had chosen energy and economic policies that truly favored both personal independance and environemenal sustainability, we would not be seeing our influence and importance vanish as it is vanishing today.

But we chose a different path, one of personal greed and collective contempt, predicated on fear.

Bin Laden may be dead, but is we who have been defeated.

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