Free Markets, Free People

What is the “value” of bin Laden’s death?

Someone ask me that and it set me to thinking.  I’ve concluded that there is (and was) more value in his death than if we’d taken him alive.

Let me expand on that. 

As we all know, he’d been holed up in that fortress cum “mansion” for 6 years with no land line or internet connection – so he was dependent on trusted couriers for news of the organization he’d founded and had little ability to influence the day to day operations of al Qaeda.  Obviously he would have still been a valuable intelligence asset, but not quite as valuable as one might think.   I get the impression that bin Laden’s real value was that of figurehead – that as long as he lived, his existence continued to demonstrate to his followers how powerless the “great Satan” really was.   Every day he drew breath, he rubbed in the fact that he could take 3,000 lives in a single day and the US couldn’t even take his.

With each video or audio clip he had smuggled out of his lair and posted among jihadi sites, he tweaked the nose of the US and inspired his jihadist followers.  His stature grew with each tweak.  His survival helped him sell the “righteousness” of his cause because he could claim the protection of his god as the reason he was still untouched.

Bin Laden, given his experiences prior to 9/11, honestly believed that the US was too decadent and cowardly to ever take real action against he and his followers.  He’d tried to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993, did bomb Kohbar Towers and two African embassies as well as attacking the USS Cole.  In all case the reaction was pitifully inadequate. He also believed we didn’t have the fortitude or courage to take casualties and stick it out for the long run.  His planning got more ambitious.  He, like many throughout history, badly underestimated his foe.  

His first indication of his future fate came with the capture of Saddam Hussein.  Hussein shared bin Laden’s beliefs about the US and found himself to be horribly wrong.  Not only did we destroy his regime, we were relentless in his pursuit, finally capturing him months after the culmination of combat operations in Iraq.  He went to the gallows a thoroughly defeated man.

Bin Laden didn’t expect to have to live as he’s had too these past 6 years.  He believed at some point soon after we invaded Afghanistan we’d tire of the combat deaths and the commitment and leave.  He felt his beliefs about the US would be vindicated.   But not only did we stay in Afghanistan, we invaded Iraq and stayed there as well.  And when it was clear we were going to be successful there, the first realization that he was dead wrong about the US had to dawn on him.  To quote Admiral Yamamato, he had awakened a sleeping giant with his 9/11 attacks, and that giant wasn’t going to roll over this time and go back to sleep.

The Sunday operation that led to his death was the culmination of years upon years of effort to find the man.  It was a relentless pursuit.  It cost us lives.  It took a lot of money.  It took a lot of time.  But when that Navy SEAL pumped two rounds into bin Laden’s head, he not only killed bin Laden, but he killed forever the narrative bin Laden had built up among his followers for years. 

No longer could his followers take comfort in the belief that the US was a decadent, cowardly paper tiger.  Iraq and 10 years in Afghanistan had blown that myth away.  No longer could his followers believe that his survival demonstrated the righteousness of their cause.  He was now fish food.

More important was the message his death sent to the entire jihadist community – something his capture couldn’t do – it may take years, lives and money to find you, but we will find you.  And when we find you, we will kill you.

That’s an incredibly powerful and important message to send.  Bin Laden’s death was the very best way to send it.  It will reverberate throughout the jihadist community and the hopeful result is a further lessening of al Qaeda’s influence and a peeling away of the less committed among that community.  It is clear that his death was a greater “value” for the US that was his capture.

Hats off to all those who made it happen.  As someone said, “5.1.11 is the day we got even”.  And the jihadist community will remember it, and hopefully its lesson,  just as we remember 9/11.



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46 Responses to What is the “value” of bin Laden’s death?

  • <blockquote>
    …no phone contact…

    No land line contact. I don’t have a land line myself. It’s 2011. He probably didn’t have talking drum or semaphore contact either.

      • I wonder if he got an iPhone for Christmas…they track your every move!

    • Thanks to Senator Leahy (Bonehead-VT), bin Laden learned that his sat-phone was thoroughly compromised mid 90’s.  I doubt that he would use a cell phone.  That’s not to say that someone in the compound did not have an untraceable, in terms of point of ‘purchase’ and ownership,  communication devise.  (there were at least two satellite dishes in that compound.)
      The reasonable presumption is that elements within ISI were assisting – I would be very surprised if there wasn’t a means of nearly instant communication.  But perhaps given the location to the military school someone was tasked in… smoke and mirrors.

  • He, like many throughout history, badly underestimated his foe.

    Like the comedian said after 9-11, you know Osama got a call from the Japanese – “Oooooo You so screwed…  You don’t know… You just don’t know….”

  • Here’s the value in him being dead:  He f**ked with us, and we hunted him and killed him, even if it did take 10 years and overthrowing two middle east regimes in the process.


    The lesson implied in that is worth something.  Or in terms his followers can understand:  “Who’s the weak horse now, b*tch?”

    Also, we won’t have to listen to him gloating during the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  That’s worth quite a bit also.

  • I’m certainly not going to worry they’re going to redouble their efforts to commit acts of terrorism.  What does that mean?  That the planning they were already doing to blow us up will be…what?
    “Planned even more Infidel!  We will plan the plans even!”
    “We were only going to blow you up before you killed Osama…now…we are really going to blow you up!”
    Steeped in their Jihad juice and ready for their heavenly reward, I’m not sure dying is something they necessarily fear much though, knowing they’ll lose face strikes me as more likely to deter them.

  • I do worry about what OBL accomplished in changes to our view of civil liberties. The government can take a US citizen and detain them indefinitely. Torture has and will be used to extract information, though at least it does seem info from torture still cannot be used in court. We are all treated as criminals, if we wish to travel by air.
    Pogo is still relevant.

    • Except for the air travel part…what a crock of sh!t.

    • Those who pull the Pogo line — “We have met the enemy and he is us” — decided we were the enemy long before Bin Laden murdered 3000 people in New York City.

      Those who imagine that some extraordinarily dark transformation took place in the American soul since 9-11 know very little history, only the bits that confirm their prejudices.

      • “Those who imagine that some extraordinarily dark transformation took place in the American soul since 9-11 know very little history”
        I think all in all, we’ve demonstrated other than that – since 9/11 I can think of 3 mosques that have been built in the Dallas area alone.  Not exactly rounding them up and sending them to Manzanar are we.

    • Our  liberties have been eroding for over a century.  Any time we are faced with another forced acquiescence at the threat of fines or incarceration, another liberty has been lost.  Left libertarians wave this away with the ubiquitous “greater good” reply, yet they have been laying the framework for the total eradication of liberty.  The citizens of this country no longer balk when we are forced to wear seat belts, buy flood insurance, stop smoking in public, can’t get a decent fry from a fast food joint, etc.,  and yes, have to wait some extra time prior to boarding an commercial jet.  And soon we will have to purchase only approved light bulbs and health insurance plans.  Anybody who encourages government intrusions for greater good reasons cares little about liberty.

      • Dude, you are confused.
        Having to buy flood insurance if you live in a flood zone is NOT an intrusion on your civil liberties.
        The Patriot Act has PROVEN to be a remarkably careful set of laws, with LOTS of due process applied.
        Waiting at the airport is just an example of STUPID, which BIG GOVERNMENT insists on getting stuck on.
        There has ALWAYS been a tension between civil liberties and police practice.  There SHOULD be.

        • You are missing my point which is the willful erosion of liberties for what individuals believe worthwhile, yet amorphous greater goods.  It did not start in 2001.

          • I get your point…while thinking you chose crappy examples.
            Of which, there are LOTS of good ones.  E.g., the assumption under tax law that your are liable if accused of wrong.

  • THere is also a certain kind of blood upon Obama’s hands now.

    There was no obtaining proof then complaining to the Pakistan government or the UN or the World Court. There was no asking Pakistan or anyone for help. There was no taking Obama alive and bringing him back to Guantanamo or a Nuremberg trial. There was no exquisitely sensitive handling of Bin Laden’s body according to Muslim protocols lest the Muslim community be aggrieved.

    No, the Seals shot Bin Laden in the head while taping the raid with helmet cams. Bin Laden was killed like the deadly enemy of the United States that he was, as forthrightly as if George W. Bush were still president.

    • Yeah, a distinctly military action rather than a legal one I’d say.  He was taken out the same way we’d take out a tank or a radar site with mission appropriate tactics and weapons.
      I wonder if Barry is beginning to get high on being CinC yet.

      • 5.1.11 … like it took Nixon to go to China, Reagan to actually reduce nuclear weapons, …
        it took a lifelong Marxist to rehabilitate May Day

    • Hopefully the international community will view President Obama as stronger Commander-in Chief.——CONEY

    • There was no exquisitely sensitive handling of Bin Laden’s body according to Muslim protocols lest the Muslim community be aggrieved.

      Actually, there was.  Far too much, IMNHO.  Like I’ve said, I would have sew him in pigskin.

      • Surely there’s a difference between intentionally desecrating a body and treating it like another corpse, albeit with a high propaganda value if it were returned to family and friends.

        There are Muslims unhappy with the burial at sea…

  • in the UK 9.11 is November.
    We are planning a peace party.
    What about you?

  • McQ [Osama bin Fishfood], like many throughout history, badly underestimated* his foe. 

    shark –  [T]he value in him being dead:  He f**ked with us, and we hunted him and killed him, even if it did take 10 years and overthrowing two middle east regimes in the process.

    newshutzI do worry about what OBL accomplished in changes to our view of civil liberties.

    All these points are good.  It’s useful to remind certain nations from time to time that, contrary to lefty propaganda, we Americans are not aggressive or imperialistic, but we ARE quite thorough about winning when we are sufficiently provoked.  Actually, I hope that lefties learn a lesson, too: you don’t deal with international monsters through UN resolutions or subpoenas, but rather through the application of force.  Maybe they’ll remember that the next time they think that cutting the defense budget is a good idea.

    newshutz raises the other side of the coin: what do we sacrifice in pursuit of safety?  Quite aside from the havoc we’ve raised in Iraq, A-stan and other countries where we’ve blasted the sh*t out of people to get (we think) some terrorists, we’ve further enlarged and further empowered our central government, something anathema to previous generations of Americans and certainly to the Founding Fathers.  We’ve done other things such as “enhanced interrogations” that, while we may applaud their utility, are not especially congenial to our legal and moral traditions. 

    As a related aside, getting bin Fishfood underscores a problem with Libya: what is the reason we are bombing?  We’ve been after bin Fishfood for years: there has never been any question that he is the enemy and we will use all reasonable (and many unreasonable!) methods to get him.  This is not the case with Godaffy; hell, we were giving him money not too long ago.  I don’t say that he was our pal, or even that we didn’t have a pretty good reason for seeing him to an early grave (watery or otherwise), but he has hardly been Public Enemy No. 1 lately, so why are we trying to kill him?  It makes our foreign / military policy look capricious, which is almost as bad as being feckless or craven.  The sheepdog that bravely attacks the wolf and only the wolf is a good sheepdog and a friend to the flock; a sheepdog that sometimes shies from the wolf or sometimes even attacks the sheep is an outright menace to everybody.


    (*) Don’t you mean misunderestimated?


  • Frankly, I’ve assumed to a few years now that UBL was dead.  It was a win-win for all to have UBL unaccounted for, including a undisclosed grave.
    The CIA would have a phantom adversary that could never be caught but forever feared.
    al Qaeda would have a leader that could never be caught but forever leading them to victory.
    With UBL dead, this “phantom adversary” meme is dead for both sides.  And remember how the space program virtually died after the first couple of moon landings.  Expect more of the same kind of thing .. dwindling public interest.

    • “dwindling public interest.”
      Well, at least until a Dutch passenger gets sick and stays home one day and an airliner drops out of the sky over Weehawkin, cause nearly every catch we hear about has been made by accident, not because Janet OhellIdontknow is protecting us.
      Then we’ll increase the number of body searches on 6 year olds and blue haired grannies from Iowa.

    • This may be the turning point for a new period of American isolationism.

  • For those of us irredeemably cynical about seeing all news in terms of campaign politics, Obama may have shot a bolt he’d have preferred to save for next year. One line of speculation is that the latest Wikileaks release forced our hand in attacking Bin Laden’s hideaway sooner rather than later:

    Buried in a document from 2008 released by WikiLeaks last week are notes from the interrogation of a Libyan, Abu al-Libi, who had apparently been with Bin Laden in Afghanistan.

    According to the document, Libi fled to Peshawar in Pakistan and was living there in 2003 when he was asked to become one of Bin Laden’s messengers. The document says: “In July 2003, detainee received a letter from [Bin Laden’s] designated courier, Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan, requesting detainee take on the responsibility of collecting donations, organising travel and distributing funds for families in Pakistan. [Bin Laden] stated detainee would be the official messenger between [Bin Laden] and others in Pakistan. In mid-2003, detainee moved his family to Abbottabad (Pakistan) and worked between Abbottabad and Peshawar.”

    Libi was captured in Pakistan in 2005. The CIA says it tracked Bin Laden by tracing the network of couriers, in particular one especially trusted by the al-Qaida leader and who died with him in the US raid on Sunday. The US has not yet named the courier.

    WikiLeaks released the report last week, prompting speculation that the US, afraid that its planned raid might be pre-empted, brought forward its attack.

    • I caught TMZ last night.  Their contribution to all of this was that the loser in all of this was … Oprah.
      Oprah had a pre-recorded program with Barack and Michelle Obama that didn’t air till Monday with that now forgotten (we can hope) blockbuster revelation of the original COLB.

  • When all is said and done, there’s one thing you need to keep in mind here –
    Osama Bin Laden is dead….and as usual…’s BUSH’S fault.

  • The story of UBL’s end appears to keep changing.
    Now, UBL’s wife didn’t die, they got the name of the dead son wrong too.  It even appears that UBL didn’t have a gun, but was “putting up resistance”.  What did he do ?  … attack the Seals with a pointy stick ??  .. a banana ?
    Did the Seals gun down US public enemy #1 like a common dog ?
    This is getting worse than the “Jessica Lynch” urban legend.

    • Simple
      Black bag, over his head, now vacationing in Poland where he’s learning how to water board.
      It was a good story when I first heard it, and it hasn’t gotten ANY worse, and hardly one we could admit to.
      As to the real story –
      how do you NOT see the shooting over the video feed since the White House was ‘watching the whole thing’ according to the news this morning.
      Maybe there was a grassy knoll somewhere in the compound – and Osama’s head goes back, and to the right, back, and to the right.
      Heat of battle, and people who should keep their mouths shut opening them to be cool when they don’t know wtf they’re talking about.

      • OK, and you can always dump his body later into the sea. No one is wiser.

    • Seriously, on a realistic note – ask yourselves…..
      I have the master mind of Al Queda literally at arms length, now, it seems, unarmed.  The intelligence he has is beyond value….I’m a highly (there isn’t enough space for all the highlies I need, so I’ll just use one) trained spec ops soldier and I can kill you several ways with a paper clip, he’s a 54 year old man, possibly wounded already.
      So I shoot him in the head….twice……
      (yeah, I know, if I’m following orders, yes, I shoot him in the head twice….which takes us to….)
      From a higher level – I know where he is, I have a trained, highly motivated team, I send them in there to KILL HIM even when there’s a possibility I can take him alive.
      Does all this sound logical to you?   I really like the water board vacation scenario, because it makes a hell of a lot more sense AND explains everything they’ve done afterwards, complete with expedient burial at sea and the story lines that keep dribbling out.  Armed and shooting, hiding behind his wife, unarmed, hiding behind his wife,  not hiding behind his wife, what’s next?

      • Who’s blood is on the ground then?

        • who knows, he wasn’t alone in there.  And it could be his too, a wound, rather than a head shot.
          Ah, we’ll never know, and frankly I don’t care, if they got him in one way or another and finding his hideout, or him, provides intel that allows us to drop a couple bombs down someone’s chimney to brighten their day for a second.

      • Your scenario is possible but I can believe that they wanted to handle Bin Laden strictly by the book with no tricky business which could boomerang later.

  • I hope…without much hope…that Nappy Jan (Our Borders Have Never Been Safer) Napolitano is up to the challenge in the next several months.

  • His death also gives us an honorable out from Afghanistan. As much as I’d like a solid win, or even an Iraq-like “minor victory” we may have to leave that place with their problems intact.
    About the sea burial…won’t his house in Pakistan now become the shrine? So that didn’t really stop, did it?
    Or will that house be torn town?
    We should announce we will bomb that location once every 24 hours. No shrine will be allowed, though jihadis can come and get a one way ticket to paradise on a schedule!

  • “I’ve concluded that there is (and was) more value in his death than if we’d taken him alive.”

    I hope you are proven correct.  I have trouble believing he was not at the center of a spider’s web, and that we would have been better off with him having stayed there where coming and goings could be watched.  Like not killing Hitler sooner than Feb ’45 or so.

  • Helmet cams? Why? So some future disgruntled Pfc. or political hack will have something to leak? Something to impress someone, a Congressional committee perhaps?I think a certain amount of discretion in operations of this type is called for.  

  • This is good news for everybody in the free world. Yes there is a risk of reprisals, but surely in spite of this the world is now a safer place.