Has war transformed us into our enemies?

“We love death. The US loves life. That is the difference between us two.”

That’s a quotation from Osama bin Laden.  As I saw the throngs of cheering crowds chanting and singing outside the White House, as I saw Obama laughing about Bin Laden when he knew he was dead, I worry that we took too much delight in the death of our enemy. Did he need to be stopped? Certainly. Did he need to be killed? Probably, but I just have trouble wrapping my mind around cheering about his death. I hope that the cheering was mostly people inarticulately expressing relief at reduced future attack rather than experiencing pleasure at bin Laden’s death per se.

I bet this is a temporary effect on Obama’s popularity because it doesn’t really change the economy or the tens of thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is what Bush’s popularity looked like.

I see little reason to think the effect will be different for Obama. Maybe it gets him to election day and he wins. He was and is the favorite to win, and with even odds I’d bet on him winning, but I would have bet on him yesterday too, so I’m not sure how much the odds have moved. Still, the best two predictors of presidential vote share are the economy and American troop deaths, and I expect this to change neither. 

CNN said they they identified the house because it was very large but still had too many people going in and out, they burned their trash, and had no phone or internet service. They also said a woman was killed when one of the people in the compound used her as a human shield but apparently we fired anyway. That says a lot about the clarity of mission of participants on both sides.

I don’t see how the Democrats can pound the Republicans on this. The more the Democrats talk about it the more their base is reminded that Obama has essentially the same war on terror strategy as Bush. I think that hurts Obama more with his base than it nets him with moderates. I see this more as making it difficult for Republicans to criticize Obama’s foreign policy strategy than it helps him attack them. It might be just as good though.

I am sad that I cannot be more positive about this. I don’t think this makes us much safer because he is just one man, and at that one forced to lurk in the shadows for years as new leaders have arisen. In the interim. Lybia, Afganistan, Iraq, Syria, Chechnya have given rise to new skilled terrorists who have killed thousands. Iran appears stronger than ever. Yes, he is a symbol, and a powerful one, but little more than that.  If the threat of Islamic-fascism isn’t a overblown then I fear that this victory is more symbolic than substantive. I hope I’m wrong.

Adding to my moral ambivalence is the worry that we only got him with information gathered through possibly illegal means. We may only know it because we tortured prisoners or violated Habeus Corpus.

Detainees at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had given the courier’s pseudonym to American interrogators and said that the man was a protégé of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed the confessed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one this death worship concerned. In addition to many of my friends and family who decried it on Facebook and by email, I found several bloggers who spoke out against it.

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