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More than a Tailgate Party: Bin Laden’s Death is a Do-Over Opportunity

More than a Tailgate Party: Bin Laden’s Death is a Do-Over Opportunity

On Sunday night, after the President’s speech announcing the death of Bin Laden, I went down to the White House. (DC is a small town and it only took a minute).  I found the rowdy, chanting crowd off-putting. They were mostly young, however, and likely in junior high in September, 2001. 
 
I doubted that many people in attendance had watched the Pentagon burn, heard the (false) reports of bombs going off in town or seen the evacuated crowds run madly up Connecticut Avenue.  They didn’t see the Hum-vees posted in front of the National Zoo, or hear the eerie silence in the streets of our capital city on September 12, 2001.  

Gateway drug for the war on terror
They weren’t working on Capitol Hill when the House voted 420-1 to Authorize the Use of Military Force.   This vote, the AUMF, has been like a gateway drug for the “Global War on Terror” and has proved a regrettable path in the first decade of the new century.  America’s greatest strength –our credibility and power to persuade — was diminished.   Our first foot through the door of the new century was wearing combat boots.  We let Bin Laden–a criminal, murdering mastermind–knock us off our game.

Quick recap: the re-calibration of US strength and power that should have happened at the end of the Cold War never really materialized.   When the Soviet Union disappeared in 1991, we needed to take a step back, assess the potential for a dramatic strategy change and move ahead.   Instead, our leaders developed an ad-hoc method of response to new crises and conflicts. We did not re-evaluate the limits of force. 

The military as 911
Meanwhile, we confronted threat situations that required human solutions like governance and jobs. Repeatedly, we threw hardware and our uniformed services at the problem.   From Somalia in 1993 to New Orleans in 2005, the military became our nation’s International 911.   Despite the mismatch, they performed admirably and with courage. 

The US military is now full of social entrepreneurs and creative problem solvers. But the problem remains: we can’t keep engaging the world in uniform and at the end of a gun.   It is often ineffective, always expensive and mostly counterproductive.   Have a conversation with a veteran, he or she will likely agree with my assesment.

Bin Laden’s death creates an opportunity for a do-over.

A new future
I hope the students at the White House sobered up quickly on Monday. Because today’s young people will be required to navigate a future world that has few easy solutions.   Our next challenge will be to have a national discussion that helps Americans create a modern presence in the world–one that will improve our security and our prosperity.  Here are some ideas:

1. Afghanistan–let’s shift the conversation from “get the troops out now” to “what will our commitment look like long-term?”  Afghanistan has no military solution. The military itself says so.  Helping Afghanistan will require decades of economic development.  
We need to commit to this approach for our own self-interest. 

2. Nearly a million Americans have now served in either Iraq or Afghanistan.  We must bring them into a conversation about what works to solve problems in today’s world.  See this free book online for civil-military dialogue models

Get your ROTC and Peace Studies programs together on campus to discuss what Bin Laden’s death means for our nation going forward.

3. Connect with your local elected leaders. Members of Congress will need a supportive, district based constituency to help guide them through our national transition from old, obsolete notions of power to a modern understanding of strength.  Create a rapid response team of retired foreign service officers, veterans, professors, students, business people, religious leaders and humanitarians. 

Don’t forget to include techies, as systems engineers, they will bring an intuitive understanding to the changes happening around us. 

4. Shift the Bin Laden conversation to the democratic revolutions ongoing in the Middle East. How these popular movements turn out will have a large impact on US security–and we will benefit if the people of the region are able to create representative governments.  
The best way for the United States to influence change in that region is for us to improve and evolve our own practice of democracy. That’s what we are known for, and that’s what we’re good at. 

 5. “Reframe” security by redefining the criteria. We’ll always have a strong military, but aircraft carriers and expensive jets aren’t as important anymore. Today, we need to make investments in our domestic strength in order to attract the kind of confidence and persuasive ability that will leverage change. That means education, health and critical infrastructure–the tools of the age of knowledge.  
Many people wedded to the old way of doing things will resist this idea–that’s why bringing a veteran–or someone else who has served abroad–will be helpful. More and more fellow Americans have on the ground experience outside our borders in the modern world. 

Many nations are our friends and want to see us succeed. Now that our obsession is over, let’s listen to them and move forward together.

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by Mo Kaiwen

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31 comments

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6:23AM PDT on May 7, 2011

to Alice Liddell.....you are soooo right!

People who have never lived in an arab country do not realise HOW BAD it is especially for women....they have no right and are treated very badly.

9:34AM PDT on May 5, 2011

Matthew K.:

I only disagree with you in the part of good and evil. There are billions of version of it, so they are based on individual belief. In the other hand, it is a judgement to other person, which means to value this person according to your own belief, and let's remember this mechanism is used to spread animosities that often lead to fights or even wars.


Reo K.:

If you are so full of vengeance, hate, resentment or whatever is the reason why you support torture... what will your children been taught?

7:36PM PDT on May 4, 2011

Good suggestions.

7:31PM PDT on May 4, 2011

stupidity is the superior force. whether osama died nine yrs ago or sunday night could we just get off it and get on with it.please.

7:01PM PDT on May 4, 2011

I don't understand why anyone with even the slightest level of intellect would jump to the conclusion that that we college age students who are celebrating "weren't there" to see smoke billowing from the pentagon, or see people jumping from the towers, etc. What do you mean we "weren't there"? Where do you think we were? Hiding under our beds for 10 years waiting for them to catch Bin Laden? I really wish these stupid pompous "older" individuals would get off their high horse and stop preaching to us acting like we're belligerently celebrating with no understanding of what it means. Not only were we "there" to experience 9/11 and it's aftermath but we had to grow up and formulate who we are based on those experiences. We saw exactly the same things as you did, but we saw them in a way that you didn't; through the eyes of a child. Those images and experiences are ingrained in us and part of who we are and we will be living with them for a lot longer than those who experienced 9/11 as adults. I've lived half of my life with a shadow looming behind me because of the events that took place on 9/11 and the way our country changed after the fact. Don't discount my experience by brushing me aside and saying "you must not have been there" because I choose to show happiness that that shadow is now a little less dark. Those who don't want to celebrate are no better than those who do. You experience it your way and I will in mine. We have no right to judge each other over this.

2:42PM PDT on May 4, 2011

Interesting that when it comes to the wars and the economy ReThugLyingtwofacedsackofsh*tKochRoachicans immediately declared "it's Obama's war now", it's Obama's economy now", but when it came to killing Bin Laden - suddenly they drag Bush out of the closet saying "if it wasn't for what The Shrub did". Well, nut jobs, if your gonna give the shrub credit for killing Bin Laden then you have to give him the credit for starting two wars, screwing up and destroying a balanced budget, two tax breaks for the richest, and putting the country in a recession not seen since the 1930's.
"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority." - G.W. Bush, 3/13/02

11:27AM PDT on May 4, 2011

con't Every time I go to the Vet Admin Hospital I see the cost of this war and I see our government penny pinching the care of vets. Perhaps before we get to go to war we should have to put aside ALL the money it will take to care for the soldiers/vets who will give up their lives or their health to serve an ungrateful government. I've got to say that at least we're not spitting on returning soldiers or calling them baby killers, unlike the behavior during Vietnam. Everyone please write your legislators and make sure that the Republicans and the Democrats don't balance the budget on the backs of soldiers and vets. We must take back our country so that EVERY American can believe in our system again and anyone who wants to work will be able to. Although it would be nice to stop the fighting it only works if EVERYONE stops This has been a great posting and discussion. We can create what our forefathers and mothers gave their lives for, a free America in which we all live together as a symbol of tolerance and liberty.

11:23AM PDT on May 4, 2011

(Con’t) George Washington, refused to torture captured British soldiers because it would make us no different then the enemy we were fighting and HE was RIGHT. The same should hold true today. You don’t get down to their level to win, you win by being BETTER then they are. Believe me, Al Qaeda is going to become even more determined to destroy what little liberty our politicians (both parties) have left in our great nation. Al Qaeda has been able to get our government to do their dirty work for them. Our elections are a joke. Our politicians and even the Supreme Court care more about power and money then the people they are supposed to be serving.
It's a shame that Bush/Cheney bunch used 911 as an excuse to invade Iraq and to push through the so called Patriot Act which is an unwarranted attack on OUR liberties and what our nation stands for. They outsourced the search for him to mercenaries who couldn't find a fart if they had eaten a 3 bean salad. (con't)

11:20AM PDT on May 4, 2011

As a disabled vet I can take no joy in any ones death, not even someone who has caused as much hate and destruction as Bin Laden. Do you realize that he and Al Qaeda have killed more Muslims then any other religion? If they really believed their way was the right way they wouldn’t have to use violence to push the ideas on everyone else. They would be able to have people decide on their OWN if they want that way of life. The terrorists have the blood of innocents on their hands. And I’m afraid his death isn't the end of things. We have a lot of work ahead of us. I find it interesting that he and others have taken a beautiful religion and perverted it for their own means but our government has done the same thing. They’ve taken a beautiful idea of a working republic and twisted it to give an unfair advantage to the powerful and rich in this country.
We must reestablish liberty in the USA. We need to clean our own house so that we can stand as a model of what freedom really is. To do that we must change a lot of things. We need to be more tolerant of our differences. We must change the regulations and laws making sure that they are fair and do not contradict each other. We need to change our tax structure. It costs billions to enforce the current structure. This would be a good time for the fair tax.
Reo K don’t you realize that torturing him would make us NO better then the terrorists. {con't}

11:01AM PDT on May 4, 2011

The government already changed it story five times about what happened why should we believe any of it.

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