George Orwell once wrote that peaceful citizens must rely on “rough men” to protect their lives and freedoms. Nowhere was this truth more evident than in the killing of Osama bin Laden in a plush sanctuary in Pakistan.
Osama was dispatched by a small team of CIA and counterterrorism experts just outside of Islamabad, the capital, according to a late-night televised statement by President Obama. The killing or capture of the man responsible for the murder of almost 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, was ordered by the President a few days ago after years and months of painstaking and often frustrating detective work.
One of the ironies of this surgical strike against terrorism is that the lead that ultimately resulted in the death of Osama was developed at Guantanamo Bay, the much reviled Gitmo base in Cuba, where interrogators got their first clues about a trusted courier of bin Laden. One can imagine the victims of 9/11 insisting that Gitmo be designated a shrine rather than the devil’s den that some have portrayed it as.
Always there will be those who abhor and criticize any kind of violence in the pursuit of justice and freedom. Elite universities like Harvard and Yale have banned ROTC units from operating on their campuses. So-called intellectuals and “peaceniks” have sneered at those who wear the uniform of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen. You sometimes have to wonder if this attitude is nothing more than contempt for people who get their hands dirty at work or at war.
Such people live in a dream world of their own making. They forget that but for the armed cop on the corner there would be no one to stop the mad killer with the AK 47 from shooting up the neighborhood. Without soldiers willing to take the battle to the enemy—Nazi, Japanese, Communist, or Islamic terrorist—we would be left to cower in our homes awaiting the next blow. We need “rough” men (and now women) to guard our frontiers and kill the enemy when necessary. It has always been so.
To be sure, killing and trying to avoid being killed is an ugly business. One of the horrors of war is that no matter how righteous the cause, terrible damage is done to all combatants on all sides. There is nothing life enhancing about killing other human beings and having them attempt to kill you. Some, perhaps most, will return from the battleground and be able to resume their lives seemingly unscarred, while others will struggle with the demons of war for the rest of their lives.
Fortunately, this time around, following 9/11, there has been a much greater appreciation of what our military does to keep us safe. It has been heartwarming to see people shaking the hands of soldiers at airports or paying for their lunches at restaurants.
Yes, our American system sanctifies civilian control of the military. Wisely, our forefathers recognized that the concentration of power in one branch or unit of government was dangerous, and that applies especially to those who are armed—the military, the cop on the corner, or CIA, FBI, or any of the other alphabet soup t agents. We run things, not they.
All that said, never let us never forget the vital job that our protectors of freedom perform, whether they be soldiers or policemen. Because they do what they do, freedom can continue in the land of the free.