Americans are jubilantly celebrating the long-anticipated death of America’s most fearsome boogeyman, Osama bin Laden. The man behind the 9/11 attacks apparently met his end through a precisely coordinated effort by a team mostly comprising of elite Navy Seals.
But what I find most intriguing is that he didn’t succumb to death by the hands of some large-scale military assault or get blown sky high because of a massive bombing campaign; bin Laden was instead killed as the end result of a specifically targeted, small-scale operation. In realizing the significance of exactly how bin Laden met his death, calling into question the entire necessity of a decade of widespread military destruction becomes the next rational thought.
If logic were indeed allowed to prevail amidst the fog of rampant jingoistic rhetoric, then it would be a difficult task for war-hawks to argue that the total cost of blood, treasure, and freedom lost during the last ten years actually meets any singular justification.
Upon learning the initial reports of bin Laden’s death, I was instantly reminded of previous attempts to limit and focus the scope of retaliation in response to the attacks on 9/11. On two separate occasions, once in 2001 and again in 2007, Congressman Ron Paul introduced legislation that attempted to reutilize a long forgotten tool in combating smaller, non-state actors such as terrorists. A much preferred way in dealing with bin Laden, both morally and constitutionally, would have been through the issuance of what’s known as letters of marque and reprisal.
Congressman Paul’s legislation called for authorizing the President to issue letters of marque and reprisal in reaction to the attacks on 9/11. Rather than give rise to multiple wars that have wrecked havoc on innocent civilian lives, drained our economy of trillions of dollars, and taken the lives of thousands of U.S. military servicemen and women, Paul’s legislation would instead have allowed for smaller “privately armed and equipped persons and entities” to carry out “all means reasonably necessary to seize…the person and property of Osama bin Laden, of any al Qaeda co-conspirator, and of any conspirator with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda who are responsible for the air piratical aggressions and depredations perpetrated upon the United States of America on September 11, 2001.”
In light of how bin Laden was ultimately killed, the use of letters of marque and reprisal doesn’t really seem like such as stretch. Not to mention that the use of such means to target specific members of al-Qaeda would have been a much more acceptable alternative in preventing the horrific costs of fighting an all out war. If nothing else, it gives credibility to the fact that implementing smaller scale operations as opposed to larger, more destructive and drawn out wars is a superior means of dealing with this particular type of enemy.
Of course for all those who advocate a more humane foreign policy, support for the wars in their current forms is impossible. Neoconservatives who champion the spread of these wars are not likely to admit that our constant involvement is breeding more hatred and planting the seeds for future blowback. Nevertheless, the wars will persist, as President Obama has already said despite the death of bin Laden, and more widespread destruction of lives and wealth will be wrought.
Using the more responsible and effective option of marque and reprisal could have saved the U.S. from a decade of war and occupation and prevented the untimely deaths of countless military and civilian lives. But don’t count on a more responsible U.S. foreign policy to arrive anytime soon. Instead, rest assured that President Obama will continue to wage unnecessary war as he continues to keep America “safe” from boogeymen.Published in