One radio commentator recently compared the benefit of Osama bin Laden’s death to the cost of securing it: national gratification versus the money and men spent in his pursuit. It was that pundit’s opinion that, in a cost-benefit analysis, the good of the terrorist chief’s death was outweighed by the price at which it was bought.
That commentator missed the mark entirely: while it remains a good and noble thing to bring justice, in whatever form appropriate, to international criminals, it is more than good and noble to demonstrate to the world that America avenges herself when wronged; it is essential to our safety and national interests.
International relations is a world which revolves around signaling and game-theory. If country A undertakes action X, will country B undertake action Y? If it does, does country B believe country A will undertake action Z in response, or action Q? The what if’s are boggling.
In that arena, the best defense is a good offense, and the most sure way in which countries protect themselves is to signal their ability and willingness to defend themselves. In that respect, America’s handling of bin Laden was textbook-perfect: he was hunted tirelessly for almost a decade, found, killed, and buried respectfully – by Muslim rites – at sea. The signal went out: wrong America and she will seek you till she finds you, then kill you.
Signaling that doctrine was the true benefit of bin Laden’s death, as much – or more so – than any national catharsis, because that doctrine provides for the safety of Americans. The cost of that safety is tremendous, but its value is commensurate.