I suspect this may not be one of my more popular opinions, but…
Catching or killing ObL may very well do more harm than good.
It appears that a deal has been struck. (See the New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh for more detail, here: http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?040308fa_fact). Pakistan’s Musharaff has apparently decided to risk civil war with the Islamic radicals of his country by cooperating with the Great Satan. Mr. Hersh suggests that this is the price he has to pay for America going easy on him for turning Pakistan into a cash and carry nuke store.
And if he loses? A nuclear armed Islamic fundamentalist state. Right now, not some years in the future. An outcome that we clearly cannot accept, at any price. So what then? A massive military intervention by the US becomes pretty much unavoidable. Even if we count the cost in lives and treasure as “acceptable”, it will be huge.
And the aftermath? After the Great Satan invades another Islamic nation? Of course, we are not at war with Islam, I know that and you know that. But that’s what they will believe. Whatever Islamic voices of reason yet remain will be drowned out, if not assassinated.
To put it mildly, the risks are enormous. And for what? One man. Admittedly, one detestable and vile man, but still, just one. Will Al Queda collapse, and all our Islamic enemies simply disappear? Why would we believe so? Isn’t it far more likely that the martyrdom of ObL plays right into his hands? Sure, they won’t have his money. So what, they can’t get more?
Contain him. Neutralize him, keep gnawing away at this network and its funding. If years go by, and ObL is rendered an impotent fanatic hiding in the boondocks, that is the most desirable outcome possible. Any other course of action may offer the transitory and empty joy of vengeance, but the risks are enormous, and unacceptable. Perhaps not to ourselves, if we are very lucky indeed, but to untold thousands of innocents.
How many lives are we willing to risk just to kill one man?