Was it all worth it?

As every last soul has surely heard by now, Osama bin Laden is dead.  Finally located and taken out by American special forces, the death of bin Laden marks a significant moment for America.  The occasion was marked by numerous celebrations and expressions of profound relief and satisfaction, coupled with a harsh brushing of the wounds left by 9/11.  Whether it helps Obama’s political fortunes is yet to be seen, but it surely has raised Americans’ spirits.

But one question still remains in the minds of many - were the sacrifices we have made up to this point worth it?  Over the past nine years Americans have had their privacy invaded, their values called into question, and their coffers tapped to fund two wars expensive in both treasure and blood.  We’ve certainly engaged in some ugly practices in our anger over what bin Laden did to us on that fall day in 2001.  Your average citizen may never know the true extent of the things done in the name of fighting terrorism.

It’s clear to me then that we have paid an immense price for this victory, one that is hard to justify in retrospect.  It’s hard to look at the way our lives have profoundly changed and not say that, despite the fact that his life ended at the point of an American rifle, Osama bin Laden will go down as a victor.  His actions have altered the American landscape permanently and have led us to do things that we ought be ashamed of.

In truth, it’s hard to honestly say the past nine years have been worth it.  I’m as glad as any American to have a world without bin Laden, but we’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan with no end in sight.  And it’s not clear that these expensive wars even directly led to the killing of bin Laden - as George Will points out, it was largely a success of police work and intelligence gathering.  In the end, then, it’s even harder to justify the money and lives we’ve spent.  It’s simply not a good bargain in any sense.

It’s time for Americans to take this chance and ask ourselves how we want to live in a post-bin Laden world.  Do we want to still live in fear now that our arch-enemy has been defeated?  Are we okay with being molested and violated just for wanting to board a plane?  Do we still need a massive footprint in the Middle East?  Or do we want to take a hard look, adjust our footing, and fight terrorism in a smarter fashion?  These are all questions we need to ask, and this is the perfect chance to do so.

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