It used to be that the United States liked to take its enemies alive — at least most of the time, or at least so it seemed. After WWII, the US did not hand over any of Hitler’s inner circle to the Russians and certain death. Had the Western Allies been able to capture Hitler, he would have stood trial at Nurenberg and not been delivered to a mob. Over the last five years, however, this commitment to capturing enemy leaders alive appears to have changed. The US deposed Saddam Hussein and then handed him over to the new interim govenrment of Iraq — which was dominated by Hussein’s sectarian enemies — knowing that they would almost certainly kill him. The same could be said about Gaddafi, who was toppled as a result of NATO assistance to the rebels in Libya. The day Gaddafi was killed he was the target of French airstrikes that then allowed Libyan rebels to capture him, before brutaly and publicly killing him. Osama bin Laden’s death was even more direct. The United States sent in a team of SEALs with orders to kill on sight.
It could be that the United States had no control over the final fate of Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, and that there really isn’t a pattern to how the US has been removing its enemies. But the fact that three of our worst adversaries have all died in the last few years either at our hands or in the hands of our allies suggests that we are sanctioning this behavior. So the puzzle I’m posing today is: why does the US suddenly want its enemies dead, not alive?
Best Answer to Our Last Puzzler:
Two weeks ago I posed the question of why CVS would still sell Walkmans when the technology has been obsolete for over twenty years. There were lots of interesting theories about who might use this antiquated technology — hipsters, old-schoolers, deployed service members, alien fear-mongers — and why they might use them. But the best and most plausible answer came form Pauline, Taylor Marvin and Squarelyrooted.
It’s true: I live in a wealthy community north of San Diego. The median income is above the national average, and certainly high enough for most families to afford a personal computer. But wealthy families in the community are serviced by a large group of immigrant Mexican families who also live in the area — often within walking distance of shopping areas. These families may not have the money to afford a personal computer. They are also less likely to use the public libraries that offer free access to computers. This means that if this subset of the population wants to listen to mobile music, the ONLY option they have is to buy a Walkman or a Discman. What this experience brought home to me was the huge and growing gap between those who have the money to access technology and those who don’t. If you can’t afford a personal computer, you can’t access all the information and knowledge the web has to offer. You also can’t even move beyond the Walkman. Having no access to a PC leaves you behind in every dimension.