Osama bin Laden is dead and the world is better for it. But what's with the knee-jerk calls to bring the troops home? Has balance been instantaneously restored, now that the leader of al Qaeda is dead?
I don't think so.
Our National interests include, among many other things, supporting the causes of human rights, freedom, and democracy around the planet. We seek an end to tyranny and oppression. We like free trade. Education is a path to tolerance and increased cooperation among the diverse peoples of the earth. We need plenty of oil until safe, sustainable alternatives are available.
We currently have Departments of State and Defense and others who work daily to protect and promote our National interests around the world. Other Departments have significant roles, too, but by and large these other Departments, such as Homeland Security, Commerce, and Transportation, are more concerned with domestic affairs.
In a perfect, peaceful world, the Department of State avoids conflicts with other Nation States using the art of diplomacy occasionally backed up with economic pressure. In a less than peaceful world, when diplomacy and economic sanctions fail, and especially if we fall under a direct attack, then we call upon the most powerful military force the world has ever known. The Department of Defense provides an active defense force to protect our National interests. The military is an extension of policy when diplomacy fails. If necessary, the military has the mission to fight and win our Nation's wars. The point of power projection is not global domination or Imperialism. Instead, we project power to forestall a bigger battle and to keep the fighting out of our homeland.
So, this brings us back to the question at hand: now that ObL is dead, why not fold up our tents. bring the troops home, and turn our focus onto internal issues like unemployment, health care, and the budget crisis?
Unless the Department of State can manage to restore and maintain a peaceful balance of power in volatile areas like Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be foolishly short-sighted to accelerate the troop drawdown in those places. The Department of State has gotten much more capable in the crucible of the past decade's demands. However, in my opinion it still lacks sufficient numbers of trained diplomats and sufficient financial resources to control situations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan without significant military intervention. The DoS stepped up to the plate by increasing their forward presence and that has helped tremendously. Moreover, the current administration has done a great job of rebuilding international coalitions of Nation States united against such tyranny and terrorism as we have seen from al Qaeda and the Taliban. This coalition is applying concerted political, diplomatic, and economic power to influence outcomes in this region. But that's not all. The NATO forces arrayed against al Qaeda and the Taliban represent the combined military power of that international coalition. For now, that military presence on the ground, in the air, and at sea remains essential to promoting peace and security and avoiding chaos.