Among the unspeakable injuries inflicted by the late Usama Bin Laden—chief among them the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001 —was the sewing of doubt deep in the American psyche about the limits of our power and, by association, the power of good versus evil in the modern world. If one man could kill thousands and disappear into an invisible network of terror, how great, some wondered, could we really be? Might we be exquisitely vulnerable in an age when our adversaries need not inhabit any one country nor identify themselves with any government—an age when a cancer intent on devouring liberty could spread via text messages and Internet sites and shadowy international finance operations, mingling pathologically with hidden caves in mountainous terrain?
It is natural to doubt. And doubt inspires fear. And fear paralyzes individuals and groups and even nations from speaking their minds, declaring their intentions and pursuing their dreams. It is not too much to say that doubt about our ability to deal mortal blows to Al Qaeda could even seep into the psychological side of the economy and slow or hobble a recovery. It is not too much to say that doubt about being able to capture the mastermind of the worst terror in our national history could seep into what we teach our children about the greatness of this nation, and its manifest destiny.
The killing of Usama Bin Laden by Navy Seals surgically striking inside Pakistan can go a long way to removing that doubt. True, Al Qaeda still exists. Yes, America has other adversaries who wish us ill. But the reach of freedom and its fighters was shown yesterday to be greater than the capacity of hatred and murderousness to escape it. Justice was done—heroically—by Americans exquisitely trained to deliver it, carrying forth intentions and carrying out orders from a chain of commanders reaching back more than a decade. These are Americans who pledge allegiance to our flag and who, I have no doubt, are conduits of the power of God with which this country has always been aligned.
The gains from our victory are partly strategic. The leader of Al Qaeda is dead and cannot orchestrate war crimes that steal our fathers and mothers and sons and daughters from us. But the gains are also psychological. By alchemy of the mind and soul and heart, our victory emboldens us to fight even harder to keep freedom alive and strengthen our great nation.
The surgical strike and the president’s speech about it were not unlike the moment a surgeon emerges from the operating room and approaches a family traumatized by the diagnosis of cancer in a loved one. All eyes turn to her, waiting to see if her intellect and intention and her hands were, moments ago, able to do great things. And all hearts are lifted when she says, “We got it. It went well. We’re not out of the woods. Cancer is a war, not a battle. But we won one. And today was a good day.”
The psyche of America was revitalized today. Nothing less than that.
On a personal note, I drove my two children to their bus stop this morning. My 9-year-old son was in the backseat listening to news of what the Navy Seals accomplished.
“They went into another country and got someone who wants to destroy our country?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. “Yes, they did.”
“So, we’re safer because of it.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “A little bit safer, at least.”
“That’s just a great thing we did,” he said.
Yes, we. The United States. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.