Thursday, December 13, 2012

bin Laden Alive: Would It Be Better?

Read a thoughtful op-ed by David Ignatius in the Post today, keyed to the new movie " Zero Dark Thirty" and the argument over whether torture works. He argues that it may have in the case of bin Laden, but we need to accept the idea that torture can work, can have benefits.  So in weighing whether to torture we weigh the moral costs versus the possible benefits.

The op-ed caused me to muse about another possibility: suppose we had never gotten the info on bin Laden so we never killed him.  Is it possible that would have been better for us?  Certainly his death satisfies the visceral need for revenge we feel, but are we better off?

As I understand it, bin Laden was having great difficulty communicating with his organization and in getting people to do what he wanted.  I'd assume as time passed that difficulty would increase, bin Laden would be more isolated, more out of touch, less effective.  But we killed him. So now what's left of the organization are perhaps free to form organizations more local in scope, with perhaps more effective leaders.  So in weighing costs and benefits, maybe we traded one big organization with an aging, out-of-touch leader for several smaller organizations with younger and possibly more effective leaders? 

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