Osama Bin Laden's death is the result of American persistence and American military professionalism.
For at least a century, America's enemies and their propagandists have portrayed the United States as lacking the will to engage in an extended struggle. The roots of this myth actually extend into the 18th century, but with the 20th century and the global proof of America's economic, political and cultural success, the accusations of spinelessness and fecklessness became more elaborate and insistent.
America can be blamed for giving its critics a basis for their argument. On a daily basis, an open society with freedom of expression offers domestic and international observers diverse, multifarious and totally contradictory images. The libertine and decadent are real enough. Jazz Age drunks in speakeasies morph to '50s beatniks, '60s hippies, then '90s dot-com zillionaires on skateboards.
If your current vision of America is shaped by TV programs like "The View" or "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit," it would be reasonable to conclude that America is an utterly decayed nation of sexually frustrated gossips and sado-maschists -- in other words, an easy enemy that will cower and capitulate.
However, if your vision of America is shaped by the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, the building of the Panama Canal, the Battle of Belleau Wood, the Battle of Okinawa, the Manhattan Project, the Apollo program, the Internet and similar endeavors, a nation of genius, courage and persistence emerges -- a nation to emulate, not injure and anger.
An interpretation of Vietnam informed Saddam Hussein's February 1990 speech in Amman, Jordan, in which he sketched his vision of recent history. After World War II, France and Britain "declined." Two superpowers arose, the U.S. and U.S.S.R. Suddenly, the Cold War ended. Saddam then proceeded with a rambling proposition that America was "fatigued" and would fade, but "throughout the next five years," the U.S. would be unrestricted.
He implied defeating the U.S. entailed exploiting the scar of Vietnam and threatening massive U.S. casualties. "Fatigue" and domestic self-recrimination would stall U.S. power.
Saddam miscalculated. America responded to his invasion of Kuwait with Desert Storm. Bin Laden's America as a "weak horse" metaphor echoed Saddam. Bin Laden focused on America's hasty withdrawal from Somalia after the Blackhawk Down fiasco.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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