No exultation. No victorious “mission accomplished.” No jingoistic “Rah rah, USA USA.” What a relief that Barack Hussein Obama is the president of the United States.
While students cheered wildly in front of the White House as though their team had just won a major football game, Obama’s announcement last night was characteristically calm and realistic:
Bin Laden’s death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that Al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.
Obama is clearly aware that the killing of Bin Laden is more a symbolic victory than anything. “Emblematic” is the word being used. Al Qaeda is a loose alliance, with no reliance on a single leader. But the fact that this happened on Obama’s watch and on his orders is a huge shot in the arm for the voices of calm and reason in the United States. And a brilliantly timed one. Bin Laden’s death may finally give Obama the respect and authority he merits in Congress, especially since it has to be clear as of last night that he is all but assured of a second presidential term.
We need it. The US is still reeling from the racist absurdities of the “birther” luantics (how many hours until they start demanding Bin Laden’s “long-form death certificate”?). It’s still in deep recession. It’s still enmeshed in Iraq, newly mired in Libya, and floundering in Afghanistan. And, as Steve Coll makes clear on The New Yorker blog, bamboozled in Pakistan, where Bin Laden was hiding out just a thousand feet from a major Pakistani military base, “effectively housed under Pakistani state control.”
So I know this is naive. I know it’s not going to happen soon. But really, all I can think right now is this:
Mr President, can we please get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya?
Can we please go home now?