I never anticipated writing about the death of Osama Bin Laden. I had meant to post on another topic, but this news supersedes other subjects. Nine and a half years after the 9/11 attacks, the mastermind and poster boy of international Wahabist terrorism has been killed. Wow, while Congressman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) was insisting that 9/11 first responders be checked against a terrorist watch list, and some badly-toupeed arsehole was asking to see the president's birth certificate, the president was meeting with the Department of Defense and various three-letter agencies to plan the eradication of the perennial public enemy number one. Kudos to all persons involved in the mission.
I'm not the type of person to dance in the streets in elation at the death of anyone, even a world-class scumbag like OBL. This is a time for gratitude, rememberance, reflection, and consideration of our long-term national security strategy.
This morning, while listening to WWRL's Mark Riley, a caller said that he was displeased because Bin Laden's body was not paraded through the streets of American cities... Whoa, what the hell happened? We're the good guys, I've never seen a movie in which the good guys were the guys who put people's heads on pikes. Yeah, we treated OBL's body in dignified fashion, not because he was dignified, but because we are.
In Greek legend, the dismembering of the body, often in a ritualistic context, was known as sparagmos. The fear of sparagmos is reflected in the Greek epics- the tearing of the body by wolves and vultures was considered abhorrent, and mistreatment of the corpse a horrific prospect. Yeah, I'd like to think that we are beyond the desire for public sparagmos.
Pondering sparagmos got me to thinking about Greek mythology. The Olympian Ares was identified as the god of war- his portfolio was physical prowess and courage, the destruction of one's enemy. On the other hand, Athena, the goddess of wisdom, was also portrayed as a warrior goddess- her bailiwick was strategy and skill, as opposed to slaughter. For the past ten years, the United States military has proved that it is remarkably effective when it comes to killing people, while having no long-term strategy for ending the wars into which it had entered. We have been devoted adherents of Ares, well-suited to the destruction of our enemies- we have lacked the wisdom to consider who our enemies really were, we completely rejected the Athenian ideals of wisdom, discretion, and strategic thinking. Perpetual bloodshed is not a sustainable foreign policy. High enemy casualties do not a victory make.
I have written that I believe that U.S. foreign policy depends too much on "hard" power and not enough on "soft" power. That being said, I believe that human intelligence is also of tantamount importance. It was the steady accumulation of intelligence that allowed the U.S. special forces to bring retribution to Osama Bin Laden. Without "Athena's" guidance, the Erinnýes would never have been able to play their role.
Athena was pretty much out in the cold for the last ten years, 9/11 itself might not have happened if the intelligence had been heeded. With the death of Bin Laden, we prove that we can play the role of the Erinnýes as well as the role of Ares, but with the possibility of retributive strikes, and the certainty of continued terrorist plots of various type, we had better get better at channeling Athena.