The Best Kind of Military Intelligence

Careful preparation, rather than expensive weapons, took out Osama Bin Laden.

By Anne Applebaum

US Marine watches TV announcing the death of Osama Bin Laden.Watching the news of Bin Laden’s death from Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province, AfghanistanThe U.S. Air Force, with its extraordinary range and flexibility, is the best in the world. The U.S. Navy, with its vast aircraft carriers and global reach, has no real rivals. In technological sophistication and sheer firepower, the American military doesn’t even have any close competitors, and no wonder: The U.S. government spends more on its military forces than the governments of China, Russia, France, Britain, Japan, and Germany combined.

Yet it was not our sheer military or technological strength that finally finished off Osama Bin Laden on Sunday; it was human intelligence, careful preparation, and patience. We don’t know the whole story yet, and we might not hear it for some time. But according to first reports, an intelligence tip-off led U.S. analysts to Bin Laden’s trusted courier; observation of the courier then led special forces to Bin Laden’s compound, which has now been under surveillance for many months.

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