Could Britain have carried out Bin Laden raid?
Would Britain have been able to mount an operation like Monday's? Almost certainly not, according to those with knowledge of this country's secret counter-terrorism operations.
It's not a matter of blowing your way in and shooting members of al-Qaeda - the SAS and SBS are evidently quite good at that. It isn't even due to Britain's lesser intelligence gathering or aviation capabilities. All of these practical difficulties could probably be overcome - even if that required some American help.
The real issue for any British leader planning such an audacious and violent mission is to do with the legal constraints that exist on the way British intelligence agents and troops can operate.
Insiders say there are three areas where they are governed by quite different rules to the Americans: in passing or receiving intelligence that may involve the torture or killing of suspects; in using British troops to strike in countries in which we are not engaged in hostilities, without the permission of the government there; and in the rules of engagement that govern UK special forces operations.
Let's deal with those issues one by one.
The issue of intelligence and torture is an intensely controversial one.
Sir John Sawyers, Chief of MI6, has said publicly that Britain cannot pass secret information to countries that might use it to arrest and torture someone.
The ban is pretty clear. It is not just theoretical. I am told that two recent foreign secretaries obtained legal advice about passing specific information to governments that might mistreat detainees. In both cases the decision was to withhold that intelligence.
We know from Wikileaks that not too long ago Britain stopped American spy flights using British bases to fly over Lebanon because of the possibility that such flights might produce information that might be passed to Lebanese security agencies who might mistreat someone.
So while the world criticises Pakistan one might ask: if Britain had intelligence about that house in Abbottabad, would it have been passed on? Not to Pakistan, it seems. But what about to the US?
Now to that second issue - mounting military missions in foreign countries without the host government's permission. Those who've been involved with sensitive operations tell me that American drone strikes in Pakistan would not be considered legal under British law.
On one level it's pretty obvious that the UK takes a different view, since it has its own drones based in Kandahar and clearly does not chose to use them to hit targets in Pakistan. The issue, I'm told, is that the UK does not consider it legal to use them, except in support of UK forces involved in combat in an area of armed conflict. Pakistan, Yemen, or Somalia do not currently count as such.
Finally there is the question of the rules of engagement. When Task Force Black, the British special forces squadron group in Baghdad was operating, the rules governing their operations were eased somewhat. This allowed them to kill suspects on the basis of intelligence, rather than waiting for that person to 'demonstrate hostile intent', for example by grabbing a gun or shooting at them.
But even then, people who were there have told me, Britain's rules were tighter than the American ones. Two items of hard intelligence were needed about the presence of a particular violent terrorist, whereas the Americans would storm or bomb a house on the basis of one.
We know from Leon Panetta that, remarkably, there was no specific intelligence that Osama Bin Laden was even in that compound. It was rated as a 60-80% probability, based on circumstantial information.
And yet, on that basis some around the White House table were willing to advocate obliterating the building and those inside with bombs. A British government would have required more substantial intelligence.
Of course the British equipped with similar information about that compound, might have tried to exploit it in different ways. But a similar raid could have been blocked for a whole host of legal, political, and diplomatic reasons.
Amen to that - the Archbishop of Canterbury and millions of other Britons might say. One figure within the ring of secrecy told me, "our views on counter-terrorism are fundamentally different to the Americans' and we might as well just accept that".
That may produce a warm glow of virtue, but it also causes frustration in some of the more secret parts of the government and military machine.