Two of 2011’s most extraordinary developments point in a single direction.
First, the death of Osama bin Laden was accomplished by means that resembled a police action. A painstaking investigation preceded the operation by a group of special forces roughly the size of a SWAT team. Then came the extensive diplomatic work to improve the critical, complex, and challenging relationship between the United States and Pakistan. The 150,000 U.S. troops amassed in neighboring countries at the time had remarkably little to do with it. The decade of war the United States launched in response to the 9/11 attacks, at the cost of a trillion-plus dollars and many thousands of lives, has failed to accomplish a goal that was finally achieved at a tiny fraction of these costs, through a coordinated action of investigative work, diplomacy, and minimal military force.
And second, the various ongoing, transformational struggles known as the Arab Spring point to the possibilities of peaceful change in which the United States has sought to play a supporting role and to deemphasize the role of its military forces.This article was originally published in Institute for Policy Studies.