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Requiescat in Inferna

We got the news this morning that Osama bin Laden was killed sometime last night in an assault on his compound in Pakistan. President Obama would like you to think of this as a watershed in the war on terror: a great achievement that Bush bungled, a severe blow to al Qaeda, maybe even the beginning of the end of the whole debacle of American oil imperialism. I would like to think of it that way, too.

But I can’t. Not while knowing the jihadist terror network is too decentralized to simply fold up without its nominal ringleader, and not while confrontational sentiment on both sides remains fervent. A bunch of jingo dolts spent the night partying at the WTC site, chanting “USA! USA!” and trying to remember the national anthem. Do you figure some poor Afghani is going to see that and think, “Well, I guess that’s it for the Taliban; America just proved itself a morally superior system.” Neither do I. Killing bin Laden will have about the same effect on terrorism as Mussolini’s capture did on the Nazis.

But as much as I pooh-pooh Obama’s characterization of the event as historical watershed, perhaps I can rally behind it as political message: “Job’s done; let’s get the hell out of here.” Maybe draw down the military budget in the process, so some of the spending cuts get aimed at the largest military in the world—as large as the rest of the world combined!—instead of “wasteful” programs like education and medicare. Maybe, as long as I’m dreaming, leaving Haliburton and their ilk in the lurch, exposed in their expectation of revenues that won’t materialize. It’s a good dream. And, however briefly, all things seem possible in the wake of a purely symbolic achievement.

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