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Politics

Osama bin Laden’s Death Presents an Opportunity to Highlight American Humility, Not Hubris

RICHMOND —

OSAMA BIN LADEN can harm us no more.

Those are words many Americans have waited a long time to say. And I find they bring me great relief as an American to be able to use them.

One of history’s worst mass murderers — a man who found satisfaction and purpose in attacking and killing the innocent as a statement of support for his own mad imaginings — has been brought to justice.

On no day is this a perfect country. But on an American day like the day after our military eliminated a dangerous and radical mad man, the citizens of this country were able to reflect on why we get to stand tall with a sense of our historic purpose. We always should do it humbly, but by our actions and deeds we also must always continue to work to be worthy of the ideals we strive to live up to.

The president was brave to order such a mission. Once he decided to move forward, he had bet the future of his administration.

BUT WHILE THAT decision is a seminal moment for Barack Obama, he is not what has brought me the greatest pride upon hearing of this mission. The bravest Americans in this adventure to eliminate the Osama bin Laden threat are the members of the American military and the American intelligence community who risked their lives to make it happen. Their courage will stand as a national inspiration. They add another reason why I am proud that I served this country in uniform.

They flew unannounced as a small force into what seems to be a hostile country. They landed in a relatively small compound — only one acre — and identified a target we had spent almost a decade trying to track and capture. They fought for more than 40 minutes. They achieved victory without losing a single American. They then survived the loss of one of their vehicles with calm and resolve. And finally they headed home and disposed of an evil man’s corpse with no vengeance.

But let us not get caught in a feeling of unstrained triumph, because that is not the reality of this era — even in the immediate aftermath of bin Laden’s death. There are other terrorists who even now seek to live up to the monstrous example that bin Laden set for them. They are now the vanguard of those who want to attack and kill as many of our people as they can. They don’t want to live up to the tragedy of bin Laden’s life, they want to surpass his evil.

WE NOW MUST move forward with strength but also with equal, if not greater, humility. We must remember we have great domestic needs to tend to as well. Our resolve and ability in foreign and national-security policy can be transferred into our national duty to continue making our American union a more perfected national covenant.

Dr. Herbert Hirsch is a professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. He is a scholar who specializes in Genocide Studies and Prevention, and he is a friend. He has pointed out that even in our American joy during this moment: “We have young men and women, highly educated, talented and hardworking kids graduating from College this year, many of whom will have little chance of finding meaningful employment. We have millions of older workers who have been unemployed or underemployed for months and many now for years.”

Herb is right; we must use our talents and skills not only in defense of America, but in service to building its future for the next generations.

Yes, this is a time we all have waited for. But let’s not indulge in the unattractive lure of gloat and glory. Let’s absorb this moment with humility. Let’s follow the example of the men and women in the military: They did their jobs, and then quietly moved on to training for their next mission, the way the military always should — and the way Americans should, as well.

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