Kos has a piece posted on his blog about Personifying the Enemy. I agree that it's depressing that so many people believe that our problems would be solved if we simply killed or captured the enemy's leaders. It's even more depressing when you consider that this tactic works for our political leaders.
I'm in an OBL pool with some of my friends. I think Bin Laden has already been captured and the Bushies will likely trot him out just before the election - most likely dead. (My WAG is 9/24 in the pool.) I think that such an event would ensure Bush's re-election, and if Bush knows that capturing OBL would ensure victory, that he's likely already taken steps to make sure this happens. But why does capturing OBL put a lock on the election for GW?
Because Bin Laden is the face of Al-Qaeda for so many Americans. It would make Americans feel better to see OBL dead. A moment's thought would reveal to Americans that Al-Qaeda is a terrorist network of which OBL is a founder and facilitator. Given that we know Bin Laden is most likely in poor health and has not likely been able to manage the day-to-day operations of Al-Qaeda, we should know that his death, especially at the hands of the United States, would turn him into a martyr.
I'm not saying that Bin Laden shouldn't be brought to justice. I think we should do our best to capture him and bring him to the U.S. for trial. But what happens if/when the Pakistanis find him in the badlands, turn him into chopped liver and send him to the U.S. in a Tupperware container? You'll see radical Muslim fundamentalists mobilizing all over the place, in record numbers. You'll see additional attacks carried out in his name. All of this to make us feel better that we "got" the leader of Al-Qaeda?
I'd rather see OBL brought back to the U.S. alive, where we can hold a very public trial, convict the crazy bastard, interrogate him about Al-Qaeda and stick him in a very small, very dark cell for the rest of his life.
Alas, most Americans are living in denial, believing that the killing of OBL should be the main goal of the War on Terror and not the systematic dismantling of Al-Qaeda. And if you think the Bush administration isn't going to leverage this sad fact for all it's worth in the months leading up to the election, just wait and see.