It sounds like a stupid question on the surface, but deciding whether US forces would capture or kill Osama bin Laden if he’s ever snagged in the battlefield reveals a lot concerning our war on terror. What the goals are, what the likelihood is of achieving those goals, etc.
What to do with al Qaeda leaders and others plotting attacks on U.S. targets is a major issue in the United States as the Obama administration pushes ahead with plans to prosecute some terrorism suspects in traditional criminal courts.
Holder in particular has faced fierce criticism for planning to try the self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in a criminal court, with many calling for military trials for him and four alleged co-conspirators.
See, there are two factions of those when it comes to fighting terrorism: those who look toward strategy and those who look toward retribution. For all their jawing, the reason these people want to torture and hold terrorism suspects indefinitely isn’t for strategic reasons; if every military expert said the best way to get information out of terrorists was to give them video games and cushy hotel rooms, you think McCain and Lieberman would be fighting tooth and nail to empty out the nation’s Hiltons for them?
It’s a good chance that bin Laden, if we were to find the guy, would die in battle. I kinda doubt he’d be willing to go into American custody, but that should be our goal (and is, at least nominally). As satisfying as it might be to hook his nuts up to car batteries and drag him over hot coals by the beard, it wouldn’t really do anything useful except satisfy bloodlust. If that’s what we’re after, well then we’ve already lost the war.