The Best Defense

Courtney Me 109 on the meaning of bin Laden's death for her peer group

I asked Courtney Messerschmidt, AKA gSgF, to explain to Best Defense readers the emotional reaction of her fully crunked peers to the killing of bin Laden:

By Courtney Messerschmidt
Best Defense guest Ute correspondent

For those of us who were 10 or 11 years old on 9/11, the news of bin Laden's death is worthy of celebration. It is a tremendous moral victory for our nation and it validates what so many of us have learned in the past decade -- that America really is a magical nation -- the only one of her kind (more on this in a bit).

It's the triumph of good over evil. Sound passé'? Au contraire -- most of us reject moral relativism.

It's because for half of our entire lives we have lived with scary and creepy stuff like Taliban, al Qaeda, jihad, and the threat of terrorism on a mass attack scale from the indescribable horrors we saw live on TV that day -- with almost daily threats from various branches of aQ that they would gladly kill more Americans anyway and anytime they could.

Unlike the Soviet threat in ancient times -- al Qaeda had no embassies or diplomats at U.N. to double talk and speak of peaceful coexistence. aQ was always intolerant, and totally hot for murderous activities that targeted innocents by design.

9/11 was the pivotal day in our very young lives and OBL's timely demise seems to have closed a chapter that lasted forever.

This is significant.

1st off -- pretty cool to realize that OBL realized his death was imminent. Like il Duce, der führer, or S'Ddam -- the awesome knowledge that the end was at hand as America confronted him for a haj to the perfumed gardens of paradise. And like al Zarqawi in Iraq -- the last thing OBL ever saw was a po'd American about to kill him. Oh, that is sweet.

Equally hot -- of all the nations that aQ has attacked and tormented over the years -- only Great Satan had the brain power, will power, staying power, and fire power to hunt him down, choppering in less than 30 guys into a veritable Pakistani Army base with nearly 10 thousand troops stationed blocks away to visit death upon him. And in a fun, friendly 'forget you' way -- hauled off the body as booty and chucked it overboard from an American aircraft carrier (sovereign American turf -- no less) as shark bait.

Many think the war is over -- or almost over -- as the recent Yemen drone strikes hoping to kill al Awlaki indicate.

Others realize in a Churchillian way -- it isn't the end -- or even the beginning of the end, yet it may well be the end of the beginning.

So we celebrate the victory of good over evil via bin Laden's death repeatedly, without modesty or restraint. Not to put too fine a point on it -- when the 'funintended consequences' erupted on TV later in the week in the form of rowdy foreigners protesting America's righteous hit, we reveled in their dismay.

And when frightened teachers and the elderly gave us the old 'shame shame' meme for partying about the death of a mass murder engineer we joyously pointed out -- sometimes -- our enemies need killing. 

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The Best Defense

Sir Hilary Synnott: Yes, be angry with Pakistan's treachery, but don’t go nuts

By Sir Hilary Synnott
Best Defense guest diplomatic columnist

The notion that Pakistan has, in Western eyes, been a treacherous ally since 2001 is well-founded and not new. The world has recently been reminded of the conflicting interests and practices by recollections of Prime Minister David Cameron's declaration that Pakistan has been 'looking both ways' and by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's references to the duplicity he encountered when he was a frequent visitor to Islamabad in 2001-02, when I was High Commissioner there and had similar experiences.

But the revelation of the presence in Abbottabad, one of the country's most militarised cities, of the world's most wanted criminal 'on the run' for ten years, suggests a new and different order of magnitude of perfidy.

And international reaction will have been sharpened by the Pakistan establishment's astonishingly inept attempts at self justification: Prime Minister Gilani's accusation that any failing on the part of Pakistan reflected the failings of other countries' intelligence services; and Foreign Secretary Bashir's exhortations that we should put the episode behind us and look forward. This last is reminiscent of General Musharraf's attempts to deal with the reaction to his land grab in Kargil in Kashmir in 1999.

So there will be a natural temptation to contemplate a wholesale shift in the United States' and others' relationship with Pakistan, perhaps the cessation of all aid, including the Kerry-Lugar-Berman packages for the social and educational sector.

This would be a mistake. While the status quo may no longer be acceptable and the U.S.-Pakistan relationship needs to and should be recalibrated, it will do no good to cut off hope for economic improvement and employment opportunities in a nuclear armed country with a population six times that of Afghanistan and an exploding demographic profile.

Rather, the United States should continue, resolutely, steadily and with no false expectations, to try to disburse assistance for social development. It should target and account for its military-related assistance much more carefully than hitherto. And it should close off Pakistan's access to big-ticket arms contracts, paid for from Pakistan's own sparse funds, which can only be used against India while, if possible, liberalising access to U.S. markets for Pakistani textiles.

Sir Hilary Synnott was British High Commissioner to Pakistan 2000-2003. He is author of Transforming Pakistan: Ways Out of Instability and a memoir of his service in Iraq, Bad Days in Basra.

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