After bin Laden

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The news of bin Laden’s death reminded me of an important statement by President George W. Bush:

“This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing.”

Bringing bin Laden to justice represents a unifying moment and an opportunity for greater focus in our ongoing conflict. Bob Robb, a columnist for the Arizona Republic, years ago made what I thought was a profoundly sensible suggestion: that Congress make a formal declaration of war against Al Qaeda. Nothing in my mind would bring greater clarity to our efforts to both ourselves and to the world: we are not war with terrorism (which is an activity) or with Islam but rather with a group of people who attacked us and those who have chosen to associate with them.

Bin Laden’s death was not a police action- but a military strike carried out by professional soldiers. There was no effort to read anyone Miranda rights, which is appropriate. No one attempted to read Miranda rights to the Japanese pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor at the Battle of Midway either, preferring to shoot them down and sink their aircraft carriers.

On the other hand, the raid probably killed more actual Al Qaeda operatives than our 100,000 soldiers in Afghanistan have lately at a grand total of four. Sun Tzu taught that the object of war must be swift victory and the time is at hand for the United States to weigh the costs and benefits of conflicts such as Afghanistan. The United States has displayed resolve, now it is time for us to exercise wisdom.  Al Qaeda is not anxious to fight our forces in Afghanistan. Both Bin Laden and KSM were found in wealthy suburbs of Pakistan. You play the ball where it lands-our strike teams have guns, bombs, drones and cruise missiles and will travel.

This is a great day for all Americans, but Al Qaeda is not finished, and thus the struggle must continue. Let’s clarify our struggle and finish the job in a way and in an hour of our choosing.

7 Responses to After bin Laden

  1. Well-said. I would add that bin Laden was killed on Yom Ha Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), which seems fitting for a vile anti-Semite.

    I would also add that the declaration of war should extend to any country that harbors, funds, or otherwise supports Al Qaeda. Terrorist organizations can never survive and operate effectively over time without support from some government.

  2. Hal says:

    I think your appeal for a unifying moment would be more credible if you include some positive reference to President Obama in relation to this great day.

  3. I agree. This was a big accomplishment for President Obama. And it demonstrates the broad support in the U.S. for defeating Al Qaeda.

  4. matthewladner says:


    Obama got the job done, and deserves mad props for having done so. In fact, I think the success of this operation points the way to how we should see this conflict through, as suggested in the post. My feelings about the Miranda issue was not intended to distract from this fact.

  5. Tim says:


    John Brennan, the administration’s senior counterterrorism adviser, has now said that the first option for the mission was to apprehend OBL, not kill him.

    I agree with everything you (and Jay, in his comment) say and imply–that 9/11 was an act of war, that we should consider states that harbor terrorists as committing acts of war against us, and so forth. However, I’m not sure that the Pearl Harbor analogy applies: don’t we have a whole bunch of rules and laws that cover what to do with war criminals?

    I was happy to hear Brennan’s remarks. It’s not so much about swaying potential terrorists who may be on the fence, but more about our ideals and our beliefs. The fact that they attempted to bring him in alive (so he could be killed after a criminal or civil trial) just seems more “American,” and thus better, to me.

    Any thoughts?

  6. matthewladner says:


    If they had captured OBL then any trial that ought to have taken place should have been conducted by a military tribunal. OBL was not an American citizen, and the idea that anyone was going to tell him that he has the right to remain silent is beyond the pale.

    That mixed up American kid the picked up on the battlefield in Afganistan is a tougher case. He probably fell into both the categories of “enemy combatant” and “American citizen.” The courts chose to give him a civilian trial, and I don’t have a problem with the decision.

    I’m with Lindsey Graham on this one:

  7. Tim says:

    I made a mistake in my first comment — “civil” was supposed to be “military”. I do think that a military tribunal would have made the most sense, although it would have been tempting to gin up a legal basis for a criminal trial simply to force OBL to endure several years’ worth of impact statements.

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