Monday, May 9, 2011

Lead By Example

It was customary in ancient times, to put the heads of vanquished foes on pikes or posts, or to leave whole bodies strung up or crucified, so others would get the idea that any attempt to overthrow the current order was futile. Strangely, no matter how often this was done, it did not stop the stout of heart from attempting to do it anyway, fighting back against systems they knew were stifling, corrupt, and tyrannical. Some were not put off by the spilling of blood; others looked upon the vanquished as merely unfit to do what they set out to do.

So, now, we have the conundrum as to whether or not it is right and proper to release pictures of a dead Osama bin Laden. The most strident voices for their release hearken back to those bygone days, assuming that the site of the now defeated bin Laden will deter any other fanatical terrorists from attempting to attack us.

It doesn't work that way.

What those who advocate the release do not seem to understand, is that the fanatic or the committed warrior is not deterred in their mission. They do not see death the same way we do. Where others fail, they will succeed. Where others are caught, they will escape. Where others break, they will remain unbowed. Those who use their desire or belief as fuel for their attacks on others, cannot be turned aside merely by seeing the dead countenance of the last person to come that way with similar intent. It has never worked on any great scale. Rome was not spared death at the hands of others because it left the crucified remains of its enemies beside its roads.

If anything, this would simply add fuel to the sycophantic fire of bin Laden adherents, pushing that much closer to carrying out attacks they already had steeled themselves for. Pouring gasoline upon a bonfire is never a good idea.

All these factors aside, there is one overriding reason for refraining from making a spectacle of our dead enemy: we are better than that. While many would see this as a reason for triumphalism and in many other places on the globe the killing of enemies is seen as a cause for raucous celebration, this is not the behavior a nation that prides itself in world leadership should evince. To gloat, or drag the carcass through the street, or hang it from a bridge, would only devolve us to the primitivism that we have spent centuries trying to raise ourselves up from. To succumb to the temptation to wave this in the faces of others, is not how it is done.

If we truly want to be world leaders, we should retain our solemnity. We should not rejoice in Osama bin Laden's death, but make it clear that he has received the same treatment as so many of America's enemies -- through dogged determination and the full weight of our nation, we defeat them in detail, no matter how long it takes. Those who seek to poke the sleeping giant with a stick, must then reckon with the force of that giant unleashed on them, no matter where they might try and hide. If one is not prepared for all-out war with us, then one stands little chance of opposing us.

Let us make the death of this international terrorist as matter-of-fact as possible, to ensure that others realize that we consider it no great feat to hunt down and destroy our enemies, just a matter of course for the strongest nation on Earth. Let us prove that we are better than those who would glory in death, that we take our power seriously, and understand the great responsibility we bear to use it wisely. We cannot afford to trivialize or cheapen our victory with histrionics and mock heroics -- we must simply close ranks as a nation and with one voice, proclaim that none shall be allowed to stand against us, where they seek to destroy our way of life. That is the America that we should be.

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