There are multiple reasons to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden in a U.S. special forces raid Sunday. Al-Qaeda has lost its founder and symbol, if not its operational commander. The prime author of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has finally been brought to justice. Moreover, the world has seen a formidable show of prowess by U.S. intelligence and military forces. The bin Laden compound was located not by a stroke of luck or a drone overflight, but by years of painstaking intelligence gathering ”” some of which, unfortunately, may have come in the unlawful interrogation of prisoners at CIA “black sites.” The final raid by helicopter-borne Navy SEALs appears to have been masterfully executed, with no U.S. casualties, a feat that may banish some memories of the failed 1980 hostage rescue mission in Iran.
President Obama, who closely oversaw preparations for the attack, was rightly credited by all sides in Washington for seeing it through; the operation provided a rare moment of common celebration and relief in a divided America.
But the practical importance of the strike may not match its political and moral resonance….