Opinion: Tonight’s lucky Osama-ball lottery winner is...


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The news from today’s Senate confirmation hearings is that Robert M. Gates won the unanimous approval from the Armed Services Committee. But buried in the hours of testimony was an idea that just could turn this war around. It came in an exchange between Sen Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and the nominee (full transcript here):

NELSON: One question. If our goal is to nab or find Osama bin Laden, some sort of a net approach is necessary to do it. And I agree with you, finding out where he’s going would be advisable.... The other approach that we seem to have started, but we haven’t really completed, is that we put a $25 million reward for his capture, a bounty, if you will. That obviously hasn’t been enough money to get somebody to turn him in, as you say, one of his own forces to turn him in. What would you think about increasing the amount of that reward or that bounty by a million dollars a week --


GATES: (Chuckles.)

NELSON: -- it’s certainly a small number compared to the costs of our conflict -- until it reaches a breaking point where somebody says that’s enough, and I’ll give him up for $35 million or $40 million -- just keep adding it. Because the costs of the war are so significant, and yet the symbolism of this individual is still significant in that part of the world. What are your thoughts about that?

MR. GATES: Sort of ‘Terrorist Powerball.’ (Laughter.)

NELSON: Yes. Somebody wins -- somebody always wins the lottery, it’s just a question of when and how much it is at the time.

GATES: I’m certainly open to that, Senator.

I tend to think Gates will became a lot less ‘open’ to this idea about six seconds after he wins confirmation. Then again, maybe it just doesn’t go far enough. How about doubling the award if someone also turns in Kim Jong Il? I think I could even get the rest of the office to go in with me on that lottery ticket...