Things would have been different if, back in April 1980, the helicopter
hadn’t crashed; eight went into a desert sandstorm to rescue 52
Americans held hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. One crashed and
another had to turn back. Desert One was a dismal failure on the heels
of Vietnam, telling the world that we, the Americans, could not do
things well anymore. The helicopter wrecked in the desert became the
symbol of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, but it would have been different if
the rescue attempt were successful. Carter would have been a great hero
and America would have been renewed because all that matters in war is
whether the spear hits the lion. Had he been successful there would have
been no “morning in America” just ahead — no need for it, no Reykjavik
Summit, and probably no Ronald Reagan. So there was a moment of anxiety
when the one helicopter went down on Sunday on the way to the compound
at Abbottabad. But this time it was different. This time the spear hit
President Obama is elegant and stylistic; even likable in a way that presidents have not been since JFK, but that can be considered to be a weakness and belonging to the poet’s corner, and there is not much room for the poet in warfare — even Hemingway was only allowed to run alongside in a Jeep. But if it is accompanied by bravery and intuition it brings a champion and amplifies his abilities. On Friday, by demanding that the compound that held Osama bin Laden not be bombed but taken, Obama showed himself to be both brave and intuitive. And to be a leader worthy of the company of Dam Neck, Virginia’s Navy SEALs, a group of elite warriors formed in 1980 in the wake of the failed attempt to rescue the U.S. hostages from Iran.
Because what started then ended this week, and now as Osama bin Laden sinks to the bottom of the sea’s unconsciousness, the tide can begin to recede. Obama's speech or comments in New York on Thursday will be historic not only because he is a great speaker, but it is the moment we have been waiting for and hoping for for 10 years. And until now it could not have been given because, to speak plainly, America and 9/11 had not been avenged. He won’t talk about that, and it would be wrong to do so and he is a better man than that, but he has already done the deed that nature demanded. And it can be time now to move on and to build again with endless thanks.