02 May 2011


COMBAT STRESS. For anyone who has ever been to war, and for anyone who never has, there are few windows onto the experience as moving and genuine as Rx for Combat Stress: Comradeship, written by Michael M. Phillips in the Wall Street Journal. His account of a Marine patrol in Afghanistan is sensitively written, and rings true. On the other hand, almost any military veteran who has served in a war zone would tell you the same thing -- that amid the violence, terror, dehumanization, and carnage of war, it isn't patriotism or the flag or democracy or the orders of superior officers that motivates you to remain engaged, to survive. It is precisely the love and respect of your peers, those with whom you face danger or death from minute to minute.

The Beast is an ugly, unpredictable, and voracious creature, one of our own creation. Thousands of books, movies, academic papers, and news analyses seek to examine both particular wars, and the concept of war. Many of those books, movies, et al., are excellent, and many are mediocre. For another window into the experience of contemporary experience of Marines on the ground, I highly recommend the HBO series Generation Kill. Carefully-selected actors portray actual reconaissance Marines who spearheaded the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The events in the series are factual, taken from Evan Wright's eponymous book, which is also compelling. But the visual impact of the HBO series places the viewer more vividly inside the events and the emotions of those who were way out on the slippery edge of reality.

BIN LADEN. By now most of the world knows what was formally announced late last night -- that the tactical mastermind and financier of al-Qaeda and numerous terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden, is dead. Here is a transcript of President Obama's announcement, and here is a more thorough background on bin Laden's life and crimes against humanity.

The man who planned and directed events ranging from two separate attacks on New York City's World Trade Center (in 1993 and 2001), the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa, the attack on the USS Cole, and a long list of heinous murders and attempted murders (not only directed against Western peoples, but also against his own Muslim brethren), was finally brought down in just the manner I have been advocating for years -- a surgical strike by U.S. special forces, acting on intelligence provided by the CIA, under the President's order. Conventional warfare has no chance of success against guerrillas, and certainly no chance against their leader. Small teams of Army Special Forces, Navy Seals, Marine Force Recon, or Delta Force, combined with local counterinsurgent operators, are the only effective way to fight terrorism on its home soil.

A word of caution -- it should be noted that even though bin Laden is dead, the world is not necessarily a safer place. For one thing, we do not yet know whether al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups will see this as a crippling blow, or whether they will now celebrate bin Laden as a martyr, and view his death as an occasion for reprisals against the U.S. Further, as The Angry Black Woman's post notes, it serves no real purpose to revel in the streets chanting "USA! USA!", when our own vulnerability to attack remains high, and will for a long time. As she said, " .... his death isn't magically going to restore our civil liberties, end our wars, end people dying because of his actions, or make terrorism go away. When all of that happens, then I will stand in the street and chant. I feel that I may never get that chance in my lifetime."

It is, in sum, a strange and confusing day, made more surreal by the truly bizarre comments of some lunatic fringe elements. Witness 40 Incredibly Stupid Facebook Reactions to Osama bin Laden's Death. I find it deeply unsettling that these people live all around each of us. After a deep sigh, though, one is still left with the small satisfaction of knowing that the world is a step closer to being a better place, now that bin Laden's is dead. Not the most charitable thought I've ever had, but unavoidably true.

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