Thursday 08 Dec 2016

Make the Call
AJ Robinson

No, this doesn’t refer to a phone call. It’s a line from the movie “Armageddon.” Bruce Willis says it to Ben Affleck and it was his way of telling the Affleck character to decide what to do, next. That decision was monumental, literally earth shattering. I thought of that phrase recently, after watching two movies about the hunt for bin Laden. Following the announcement of his death, many conservative pundits and politicians loathed to give President Obama any credit for the act. Their attitude was that all he did was make the decision, give the order, and anyone in his position would have done the same.

Oh really, is that the case?

Yes, hindsight is always twenty-twenty. Conservatives tend to see things in absolutes; everything is black and white in their world: taxes are bad or abortion should be illegal and so on and so forth. One of their favourite “What if?” games is the terrorist bomb scenario. It usually goes something like this: There’s a bomb in a city, a terrorist who knows its location is in custody, wouldn’t you use torture to get him to talk? Yes, so clear, so concise – so very black and white. Here’s my scenario: several intelligence sources give a high probability to the possibility somebody might plant a bomb in a US city; it might go off in the next two to three days. Three people are in custody, each sympathizes with the group that may have planted the bomb; one of them might know something about the bomb. What do you do?

Now, you see, my scenario is full of “mights”; that’s far closer to reality. Such was the situation with the bin Laden raid. Based on the information presented in the two movies, the government knew that someone was hiding in that compound. They knew it was a tall man, well-guarded, with women and children, and that they limited their contact with the outside world. They burned their trash, and a man that some intelligence data suggested was a bin Laden courier made regular visits. Some analysts in the CIA felt there was a high probability that the man was bin Laden, but others weren’t so sure. It could be a reclusive Arab millionaire.

Even if it was bin Laden, what should they do about it? Some suggested just dropping a bomb on the place, but that ran the risk of collateral damage. Moreover, without a body, there’s no way of conclusively confirming it was bin Laden. If they sent in a SEAL Team, how long would it take to complete the strike? What would happen if the neighbours found out what was going on? Would they attack the team or side with them? What about the Pakistani government, would it send police, troops or even jets to intercept the team? The compound had a great many small children and women; how would the world react, if any of them were shot or killed?

All of these questions, and many more, weighed heavy on Obama’s mind, as he contemplated what to do. Yeah, right, all he did was make the decision! It was a big decision. Is it any wonder he’s gone gray?

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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