- Did justice demand Osama Bin Laden’s death?
- If justice demands retribution, is the United States the correct agent to deliver that justice?
- Were just procedures employed in the killing of Osama Bin Laden?
… and answers those questions with: maybe, no, and possibly.
I think the point of view in this case needs to be a little different. It’s very difficult to apply ‘normal’ principles or ideas to situations which are too far removed from the ‘usual’.
Justice should not be retributive – that would lead to an impossible situation very quickly; but in that respect, was it only justice that demanded Osama Bin Laden’s death? No. It was more than that.
Bin Laden was perhaps one of a select few individuals who was hated by everyone outside his sphere of influence. Hated, not for ‘petty’ things, but for causing harm deliberately to other human beings, in a large scale, outside of a war situation. Justice is a part of it, yes, but along with it was the crucial idea that his absence would be a blow to his minions – morally and emotionally if not in direct operation. Given a choice, how many nations would say that having him alive and leading Al-Qaeda was an option? None, is what I think.
Was it justifiable that Osama Bin Laden be killed? Yes. (I realize “justified” is a looser word than “justice”, and I believe should only be applied to someone as notorious as Osama Bin Laden.)
US is certainly not the right agent to deliver that justice… in an ideal world. Remember, this is a man who has made it an art to be in hiding, away from prying eyes, while always being in command of his troops and being their leader. This is not a man who would be easily captured and brought to an international criminal court for trial.
Was there any other agent who could have achieved the justifiable end of having Bin Laden dead? No. No other nation could have sustained a military operation, however efficient (US has been terribly inefficient, but still) for 10 years in unforgiving and foreign terrain. In that respect, was US the best agent to deliver that justice? Yes.
In his third question, by just procedures Squashed asks whether taking him alive was considered an option, or whether killing him was the sole objective. In that respect, I read an article where an administration official was quoted to have said that indeed, taking him alive was an option; if possible, that would have been done. (I can’t find a link to that article right now; I will update this post with a link.)
But there’s more to procedure: is it okay for USA to barge into another sovereign nation and conduct a covert operation? No… in an ideal world. Osama Bin Laden has been a target for a long time; there has been immense speculation that he was in Pakistan; Pakistani intelligence had not made much headway (to be lenient on them). Would the US trust Pakistan to be able to conduct a covert operation successfully, under the circumstances? I believe no, for a variety of reasons.
Considering it all, were just procedures followed? Yes, I think.
To summarize, I would modify the questions asked a little bit:
- Was it justifiable that Osama Bin Laden be killed?
- Was there any other agent who could have achieved the justifiable end of having Bin Laden dead?
- If not, was US the best agent to deliver that justice?
- Were just procedures followed?
… and answer them as: Yes, No, Yes, and Yes.