08 May 2011

An Expired Pretext?

I don’t think I’m one who’s normally enthusiastic about killing, even when it comes to be brutally necessary (as it often does). But if ever there was a time when we needed to be grateful for a dead villain rather than a live martyr, it is surely now. Osama dead is worth far more to the peace and sanity of the world – and to the dis-enchantment of jihadism – than he’d ever have been alive in even the securest of confinements. This way, not only is the Myth of Invincibility laid to rest, but we’re spared the spectacle of a pseudo-messiah going joyfully to his crucifixion. Better his twisted little world should end with a military whimper than a civilian bang.

On the other hand, we may have foreclosed – and this is a far more serious matter – the possibility of his repentance. Heaven forbid anyone (least of all me) should be flippant about that. And yet I have been told - again and again - of the amazing things the Maker can accomplish in what seems to us the merest hair’s-breadth of seconds. And why not? If God can pour the fullness of His Deity into a fully human vessel, why can't He stretch a millisecond to encompass the remorse equalling half-a-lifetime? What is time to the Time Lord? But if I’m being, again, a royal ass, I sincerely welcome your correction. Or chastisement, as the need may be.

What astounds me is how much earth-time it took us – almost ten years. I just can’t believe we weren’t smart enough to pull it off much sooner. Especially considering how whipsaw and rapid-fire smarter we've been getting – year by year, month by month, day by day – in just about every other field of human endeavor. Including all our ingenious ways of making our economies overperform – and with repeated injections of what was evidently little more than hot air. And then how we made them survive perhaps the worst single period of underperformance since the Great Depression. What’s a manhunt compared to miracles of that scale? Although, in my quieter moments, it does make me pause to wonder what even our keenest analytical and technical intelligence is worth – or even how well it works, period – minus the input of that strange, slow, almost animally patient thing we used to call wisdom.

Anyhow, regardless of whether or how far we “let bin Laden escape” in late 2001, I’m sad that I can’t be happier at the death of a most influentially evil man. On the one hand (if my sense of history serves me), we Yanks were by no means the wisest - or the most patient - good guys ever to confront a nearly absolute political evil. But we were certainly both clever and fast enough to have finished that guy off sooner. Assuming, of course, we really wanted to.

And I suppose from another standpoint, what was the hurry? There’s no telling for what length of time he may have been worth more to us living than dead. Just long enough, perhaps, for the jihadist infection to incubate, and spread, and mutate into new, more manageable (and yet more resilient) strains? It takes for time for just the right threat - the right pretext - to take root, and flourish, and acquire the right aura and atmosphere of Total Emergency. And if that's your aim - to orchestrate the right problem in order to create the right solution - then here, surely, is where even the smartest unwise guys can afford to be patient. Especially when you figure you've got an entire global culture of surveillance and information-gathering to revolutionize.

I may be as wrong as any fool who’s ever ventured an opinion on the subject. But there’s something in the circumstances of the Unspeakable One’s departure – or the buildup preceding it? – that suggests to me more than a hint of a certain fictionally popular sentiment. A thought, found not infrequently in the minds, if not the mouths, of certain movie and other storybook villains:

“When he ceases to be of use to us, we’ll kill him.”

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