Operation Second Term (that is my name for the derring-do executed so very neatly at Abbottabad by the Americans on the night of May 1-2) was hair-raising but cannot be counted as the most daring. That credit goes to Operation Thunderbolt carried out by the Israeli Defence Forces on July 4, 1976 at the Entebbe airport of Uganda.

That was also in the night, but what raised it to the superhuman category was that it involved four Israeli Air Force C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and two Boeing 707 jets flying at not more than 100 feet over the air security limits of Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, and carrying 100 commandos over 4,000 km to rescue 103 Israelis held hostage by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The US military tried to emulate the Israelis with its Operation Eagle Claw on April 24, 1980, to rescue 52 Americans held captive at the US Embassy in Teheran, but it ended in a humiliating fiasco.

Spectacular feat

That was why, presumably, the Americans took nine months to make sure of every little detail, including the identity of the person in hiding and to practise the drill to near-perfection.

They could simply not afford to botch it up, what with the leadership of the US President Mr Barack Obama being called into question by his detractors at home, the Presidential election due next year and his consistently low ratings in opinion polls. The Abbottabad exploit, at one stroke, has catapulted Mr Obama to the very top of the slate with every chance of his making it to the winning post.

As for Osama, I wonder whether at some stage of whiling away his time, with no terror plots on hand, he had developed the habit of reading the American author, Edgar Allan Poe's gripping mystery stories; if not all, at least his tantalising tale of The Purloined Letter .

Through that story, Poe establishes the profound psychological principle that the best hiding place is not the one that is the hardest and the most obscure to get at or come by, but the one that is so open and visible that nobody thinks of it or sees it!

Tenacity of purpose

Anyone who has read that story would readily believe the protests of the cream of Pakistan's ruling, security and intelligence establishments that they had absolutely no clue as to the whereabouts of OBL. How can they be blamed, poor things, when, like Keystone Cops, they were looking for OBL at all kinds of obscure and mysterious places, when he had ingeniously chosen to live right under their noses, cheek by jowl with their National Military Academy and residential colonies of the serving and retired top brass who had exhausted themselves in their search of him?

But having been brought up in Poe's detective tradition, the Americans looked for him in a conspicuous white mansion eight times larger than the compounds in the neighbourhood located in a strikingly busy place humming with activity all around it and caught him there, living in luxury with family and friends!

Leaving all this aside, there is one thing that the Abbottabad operation makes crystal clear: The tenacity of the US in being prepared to go to the outermost reaches of the earth to stop anyone from harming its interests.

Whether it is the Wounded Knee massacre, avenging Pearl Harbour, elimination of Salvador Allende of Chile or Saddam Hussein of Iraq, or getting rid of Ministers and Governments who cross its path (read Wikileaks cables), the US makes no bones about coming down heavily, whatever it takes and however long, with all the resources and military hardware at its command, on those it views as its enemies.

Is this a trait worth admiration and emulation? I don't know.