Monday, May 02, 2011

Bin Laden and the Emerging Plot Threads

Above: It's only fitting that the titular movie about Navy SEALS stars Charlie Sheen...and that "winning" is incredibly apt here.

How much would we pay to see video of a group of Navy SEALs assaulting a secret compound with the world's most notorious terrorist inside? I'd love to see the preparations, the tension before the helicopters took off and just before they reached their target.

So Osama Bin Laden is dead, and it took roughly 40 minutes to bring him down, after 18 years or so of being on the national radar. Now that he's dead it seems like it happened all too soon; we didn't get the crazy Saddam Hussein trial, see him led off to prison in chains, or anything. He's gone. This is a good thing.

The big what-happens-now question, I think, is not so much what will al-Qaeda do now that their leader is gone, but what happens with Pakistan.

We have two sides now arguing about two different things:

Pakistan is upset that the U.S. came into their country and violated their air space, and didn't say anything to them that this was happening.

The U.S. is upset that Pakistan is playing dumb and somehow make it look like they had to idea that Bin Laden was living in a mansion, where mansions are scarce and questionable, in their own country.

I don't think the U.S. needs to apologize for their actions, considering the circumstances. This isn't Bin Laden disguised and living in a bunker, this is Bin Laden living in a freaking mansion! Can you blame the U.S. for not saying anything to Pakistan before going in? Especially such a delicate and risky assault where the tiniest thing that goes wrong could mean not only failure, but Bin Laden again on the run? If the tiniest thing that could go wrong could possibly mean tipping off the wrong person, who in turn tips off the target, then you can't possibly make a "due process" call there.

We talk about it in sports all the time, where we see coaches do the wrong thing with timeouts, fouling a team before they can take a tying three pointer, those little things in close games where you increase your chance of success by looking at the big picture rather than using narrow in-the-moment decisions. If there was a 0.1% risk of someone tipping Bin Laden off, then the decision not to tell Pakistan is the right one. They can be mad all they want to.

And I think that's how this might play out. Pakistan will be mad, the U.S. will say, "We're sorry you feel that way," and then move on.

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