Should Bin Laden Have Been Taken Alive?

The debate over the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of US Special Forces rages on across the world.

New Yorkers React To Bin Ladens Death
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New Yorkers React To Bin Ladens Death

Will the US release a photo to prove he is actually dead? Will his death spark a wave of revenge attacks? And who will step up to replace him at the head of al Qaeda?

These questions are giving rise to opportunities to write billions of words and are fueling a heated debate that is dominating headlines across the world.

In a research note from the Asia Pacific Foundation M.J.Gohel has been asking whether it would have been better to bring bin Laden in alive.

His conclusion: in an ideal world yes, in the real world, probably not.

“Should bin Laden have been captured alive? In an ideal world, yes, a trial would have been important and in accordance with a democratic and civil society,” said Gohel in a research note.

“However, the real world presents complexities and legal hurdles regarding captured members of al Qaeda and legalities have plagued the US and it made them unable to successfully organize a trial let alone prosecutes them,” he said.

Major Security Risk

If bin Laden had been brought in alive Gohel believes it would have created a huge security risk.

“It would have been used as a rallying call by terrorists to carry out attacks, take western hostages and ensure that chaos reigned,” Gohel said.

“In today’s world of new media, inevitably someone escorting or guarding Bin Laden would take a picture with him as a souvenir on his smart phone which would then end up being uploaded on the internet and that would be interpreted by the radicals as a source of humiliation and be used to further inflame tensions,” he said.

There where also a number of practical reasons bin Laden could not be taken alive in Gohel’s view.

“Laden may have been wearing a suicide vest, or the compound could have been booby trapped with remotely controlled explosives,” Gohel said. “Washington could not run the risk of either failure of the mission or major casualties amongst the Navy Seal team.”