Like a lot of people, I was glad to see the back of Bin Laden (well, we haven’t even seen his back, but I’ll take their word for it). I felt a sense of closure. Whatever the actual truth about him and his backers, it was good to see the man held responsible for 9/11 out of the way, put in ‘the dustbin of history’, if you will and meeting with some form of justice, summary though it might be.
Although pleased to hear about it, the way in which things happened make me feel I shouldn’t exactly be celebrating. People dancing in the streets is understandable, as they were finally free from his witch-like curse, yet the more details that emerge, the harder it is to see things so simply. Really, he should have stood trial like any other criminal and we should have been able to find a more complete closure through that process than having him merely tossed into the sea. Also, if we are representing civilisation rather than the barbarism of Islamic extremists, shouldn’t we be having trials (even show trials), charges and so on?
Whatever the reasons, of course this won’t be the case. The idea of people taking hostages and demanding his release in exchange for them also makes me wonder if in fact such a choice would have necessarily been better. Giving him a platform of any sort would also have been counter-productive. Certainly, if there was an argument for the death penalty, he embodied it. Still, we shouldn’t be intimidated into losing our values… many an issue is caught up in this topic. People on the blogsphere are posting quotes about hatred not ending hatred, violence not ending violence. Actually, i am pleased to see people feeling this way, as ultimately this is true. Yet I think the way it is being used obscures the moral difficulty of the debate, a debate after the event, but one relevant nonetheless.
To what extent should civilisations protect themselves against enemies sworn to their destruction? To what extent should democracies put their values on hold? I’m not saying I have all the answers, or even if there are final answers to be had in a world created by our values, defined by our choices. I’m just saying, the situation is unclear enough for various shades of opinion to be respectable and for people to hold back on being too judgemental on others whose view is different from their own… as their objective might well be the same. It might be naive, but in the end we have to trust Obama, with all the compassion and humanity he has, to do ultimately the right thing, in as much as this is possible.
So, whilst I am uncomfortable with the methods, the end result can only be a good thing. After years of fruitless, expensive war, (one trillion dollars is a figure that is bandied about), finally a central objective (if this is actually what it is all about, I have my doubts) has been publically fulfilled. Will this lead to a draw-down in Afghanistan? Will the cause of global jihad feel this is an unrecoverable body-blow? I feel that the latter of these options is just too optimistic. Yet it does show that no Jihadi is untouchable, that they lack any real legitimacy outside of their own followings. If this helps to end the power of radicalised Islam, this could only be a good thing. Like Communisim in the Soviet Union, it is just too incompatible with the needs and desires of human dignity to be tolerated for too long. In fact the ‘Arab Spring’ in the middle east has already to an extent rejected it as a revolutionary movement. People want freedom and happiness, not darkness and fear.
Ultimately, I feel that education, diplomacy and in the end, the warm power of love and goodness are what will overcome the problem in the long term. Like the Aesop’s fable of the sun and the wind trying to get a man to take off his coat, the wind blowing him making him hold it tighter, whilst the warm sun convinces him to remove it voluntarily, we have to remember that however radicalised the people we are dealing with are, they are ultimately human and will be reintegrated into global society at some point in the future. So this is the end of a chapter, but not necessarily the end of the book.