May 2, 2011
Does the Death of bin Laden Really Change Anything?
President Obama announced Sunday night that the world's Most Wanted Terrorist, Osama bin Laden, is dead. If reports that he was shot in the head during a commando raid are true, Osama got exactly what he deserved.
On one hand this is a great event for the United States. We have finally decapitated the world's most notorious terrorist organization and avenged the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.
On the other hand, it's not certain that the death of Osama really changes all that much of the big picture. Osama has been in hiding, effectively marginalized, for ten years.
President Obama was careful to mention, once again, in his speech announcing bin Laden's death, that "we are not at war with Islam." But much of Islam is at war with us, and with the rest of the non-Islamic world, whether bin Laden is alive or not. Osama had a $25 million bounty on his head for ten years in one of the poorest countries in the world1, and nobody turned him in.
Osama's death does not change the fact that Iran is enriching uranium for the purpose of obtaining nuclear weapons, and has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map."
It does not change the fact that bin Laden was hidden in Pakistan -- our supposed ally -- for a decade. It does not change the fact that Pakistan is a seething cauldron of political instability, and if Islamic radicals ever throw a successful coup they will have control over 100 nuclear warheads.
It does not change the fact that the U.S. is still mired in a decade-long war against Afghan tribesmen, and is fruitlessly trying to midwife "democracy" while propping up one of the most corrupt governments on earth. It does not change the fact that on seven occasions this year, our Afghan "partners" have murdered U.S. servicemen trying to train them.
It does not change the fact that a Muslim U.S. Army officer murdered 13 troops at Ft. Hood, and that his radicalism was shielded by political correctness. It does not change the creeping advancement of Sharia law in the U.S. and the West.
It does not change the fact that the Middle East is experiencing political instability in Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, and Syria, and that one or all of these countries could easily turn into another Islamic terrorist state like Iran.
Osama's death does not change the fact that Islamic terrorist attacks were carried out not just against the U.S., but also in London, Moscow, Mumbai, Bali, and Madrid.
And it does not change the fact that Osama could have been taken fifteen years ago by the Clinton administration, but wasn't.
What will undoubtedly change is the political picture. Osama himself was much more of a political figurehead than an operational terrorist. (It was, after all, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, not Osama, who actually carried out 9/11). The ubiquitous television video of Osama visiting a terrorist camp and being handed an AK-47 betrays his lack of tactical skills. It's clear from that video that he was not a marksman; he was playing the role of a visiting politician, and his handling of the rifle was clearly a pose.
The political situation in the U.S. will also change dramatically. The death of bin Laden is a propaganda coup for the Obama administration. Expect to hear, ad nauseam, between now and the election that "Obama is the man who got bin Laden when Bush failed."
It is an interesting coincidence that the bin Laden raid was conducted within a week of Donald Trump putting a serious crack in Obama's carefully constructed façade. Surely the intelligence that put the crosshairs on bin Laden had been developed over several months, if not years. It is also interesting that Osama's body was disposed of almost immediately - in judicious accordance with "Islamic custom," and it is interesting that the U.S. managed to conduct a raid deep inside Pakistan only two weeks after the Pakistani military demanded an end to U.S. drone flights.
Questions over these matters will remain for some time.