It seems appropriate that my wife and I got the news of the death of Osama bin Laden from our son last night. We had gone to bed early and he roused us to report what had happened. It seemed a fitting way to get the news because the political consciousness of an entire younger generation of Americans — our son was 8 on Sept. 11, 2001, and our daughters are, respectively, two and five years younger – was so heavily shaped by the events of that day and all that came after.
While no one pretends that the threat of terrorism has gone away, one would like to hope that the country can now turn a page, to use the phrase Barack Obama invoked so powerfully during the 2008 campaign. It’s why I think young Americans were especially animated by the news of bin Laden’s death. They do not want to be the generation whose experience is characterized by their country’s engagement in what seems like an endless series of foreign wars. But neither do they relish coming of age at a moment when so many speak of the possibility of American decline. The events in Pakistan are not so much a remedy as a sign of hope that the United States can avoid both fates.
As my colleague Anne Applebaum pointed out earlier, bin Laden was killed not by accident but through a meticulously planned attack that combined extraordinary intelligence work with the bravery of a CIA-led team of Navy Seals. And as others, including Gene Robinson, have pointed out, there was a rare moment here of bipartisan — or better yet, nonpartisan — unity of purpose. Former president George W. Bush’s comment, reported in The Post this morning by the Associated Press, had the right tone, as did comments by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
And my thoughts have also turned over the last 12 hours to the Belle Harbor neighborhood in Rockaway, Queens, where a good part of my wife’s family lives and which has become dear to me over the years. The neighborhood, home to many firefighters and police officers as well as to many who worked in the World Trade Center, suffered egregious losses on Sept. 11. Nothing can adequately compensate for those losses, but it is a place where I think President Obama’s words — “Justice has been done” — had a powerful resonance.