Bin Laden, Just War, and the War on Terror
From Ground Zero to the gates of the White House to Citizens Bank baseball park in Philadelphia, Americans spontaneously erupted in celebration.
We got him! Osama bin Laden had received his just reward.
Bin Laden’s death is a tremendous triumph for President Obama, General Patreaus, for the CIA and the intelligence community, and for the brave members of our special forces.
When I heard the news, my heart was filled with pride in my country.
This is an enormous victory, and can be a major turning point in the war against terrorism. But not just in the obvious way: Yes, Al Qaeda has been dealt a tremendous blow -- practically and symbolically.
But the real turning point could be in how we conduct this war hereafter. As I have said on BreakPoint previously, maintaining 100,000 troops in Afghanistan no longer meets the just war criteria. Our goal in Afghanistan seems to have morphed from destroying the Taliban to nation-building -- transforming Afghanistan into a pro-Western, pro-democratic society.
Our chances of succeeding in transforming a society that has resisted change for nearly two millennia are just north of zero, which is why I believe that our efforts in Afghanistan are no longer just. That’s because Christian just war doctrine demands that war be waged only when a reasonable probability of success exists.
The just war doctrine also does not say that the United States has the moral right or duty to go into other countries and force them to conform to our strategic plan. Yet that’s what we’re doing in Afghanistan.
Oh sure, our invasion of Afghanistan was a just response to the terror attacks of 9/11, aided and abetted by the Taliban. But we’re well past that. The brave men and women of our armed forces went in and threw the Taliban out. And we still could keep the Taliban terrorist movement under control with covert forces, but we don’t need 100,000 troops on the ground to do that.
The success of the operation against bin Laden proves that targeted, behind-the-scenes operations based on solid intelligence give us the best chance to eliminate the terrorists. It’s like using a rifle instead of a shotgun.
It is not only a more just and appropriate response to terrorism, but it could save billions upon billions of dollars -- 100 billion this year alone -- at a time when our nation is teetering on the edge of fiscal insolvency. The president deserves enormous credit for what he’s done.
I should also mention that just two weeks ago, I hailed the President’s decision not to try Al Qaeda mastermind Kahlid Sheikh Muhammad in New York City -- and to instead try him instead at Guantanamo. Of course, we now know that the information about Bin Laden’s whereabouts came from detainees at Guantanamo. I can’t help but wonder if that was one reason for the administration’s decision to try Muhammad there.
But again, this is a time to celebrate America’s victory over bin Laden. And it’s also a time to see a just way forward in the war on terror, which can save billions of dollars and untold lives.