Don’t Forget Those Inspired by bin Laden Robert Fisk writes in the Independent that bin Laden’s goal was to destroy the pro-Western regimes in the Arab world and create an Islamic Caliphate. But over the past few months, Mideast dictatorships have fallen as Arab Muslims rose up in the name of freedom and democracy. As founder of al Qaeda, bin Laden voiced the opinions of many Arabs about American policies, though many of them found his actions extreme. But now, they can express themselves—making bin Laden superfluous. If there are going to be more attacks, they can be carried out without bin Laden; they may even be carried out by groups with no direct links to al Qaeda. Bin Laden’s own relations with the Muslim world were strange: Fisk says he initially feared the Taliban, hated Shia Muslims, and thought dictators were infidels. He was almost certainly betrayed—Pakistan must have known where he was hiding all along.
The Mythos of Obama and Osama
Larbi Sadiki argues on Al Jazeera that there are similarities between Obama and Osama. They are both in love with a set of ideals or dreams that they sought to bring to life. They are both iconic, and their iconic statuses conjure feelings from both ends of the emotional spectrum. Both have called for violence and death in the name of their ideals. Now as Americans celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden, they should really be contemplating the consequences of the governments they elect to occupy the White House, and the non-American lives they are guilty, directly or indirectly, of taking. At the same time, Muslims can contemplate what new peaceful voices can become the new representatives of Islam, and a new U.S.-Muslim relationship can be forged.
Democrats’ Wimp Stereotype Is Over
• The Daily Beast's Complete Osama bin Laden CoveragePeter Beinart argues in The Daily Beast that the bin Laden killing has the potential to fundamentally alter the Democratic Party’s reputation on national security and “rewrites the narrative of Democratic weakness that Republicans have labored decades to build.” It plainly shows that Democrats are willing to use force. Though Democrats have certainly used force in the past, as with Bill Clinton’s mission in Kosovo and Bosnia, “barely anyone remembers those missions.” Beinart highlights the fact that back in 2001, George W. Bush sent only Afghan troops into Tora Bora—and Bin Laden escaped, whereas Obama sent a force of only Americans, whoc succeeded. Bin Laden’s killing also debunks the claim that Democrats rely too heavily on international institutions and are slaves to international law. This was already proven false—Clinton’s war in Kosovo lacked U.N. approval. Another claim that bin Laden’s killing will shred is that Democrats do not get along with the military. Beinart says Obama “is now fused in the public imagination with the most successful American mission since Inchon.” According to Beinart, for these reasons, Obama has finally liberated the Democrats from decades of unfair abuse.
Death of a “Moral Monster”
In Gawker, John Cook says Americans should not be ashamed for rejoicing and celebrating upon hearing of the demise of Osama bin Laden. While this celebrating has come under criticism by many columnists, Cook says it is entirely appropriate behavior. He says, “Moral clarity is a rare gift…Osama Bin Laden is a moral monster of the highest order, with gallons of blood on his hands, and he earned his fate in spades.”
Deadly, Two-Faced Pakistan
Salman Rushdie complains that it is inconceivable that Pakistan did not know Osama bin Laden was hiding in a mansion in Abbottabad. He was almost hiding in plain sight, 800 yards from the military academy, in a large house with no Internet or telephone. It is very unlikely that no Pakistani authorities knew he was there. Rushdie argues that this fits into a general pattern of Pakistan’s deceptions and that Pakistanis have been playing a double game in the fight against terrorism. Rushdie writes, “perhaps it is time to declare it [Pakistan] a terrorist state and expel it from the comity of nations.”
Not Quite a Triumph
Ross Douthat argued in The New York Times that we overreacted in our fears after 9/11, “and what seemed like the horrifying opening offensive in a new and terrifying war stands instead as an isolated case.” The 10 years that have elapsed since then without any significant terrorist attacks have shown that we did not need to fear Osama bin Laden, and al Qaeda were not the force that we thought they were. So, while the death of Osama bin Laden is “a triumph for the United States of America…it is not quite the triumph it would have been if bin Laden had been captured a decade ago, because those 10 years have taught us that we didn’t need to fear him and his rabble as much as we thought wet did.”
Don’t Get Cocky, America
Daveed Garterstein-Ross says that while the killing of Osama bin Laden is a blow to al Qaeda, the organization still poses a significant threat. Bin Laden’s experience fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan taught him the importance of economy; he watched the Soviet Union continue to fight until it ran out of money, and then he watched it collapse soon after. He thought these were completely linked. In 2004, he remarked that his organization was doing the same to the U.S, saying “continuing this policy is bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.” In 2010, after a plot to put ink cartridges on planes, a Qaeda publication boasted that even though the plot did not kill anyone, it was still a success, because it meant “billions of dollars in new security measures” for America.” Garterstein-Ross argues that had U.S. officials understood this goal of bleeding America to collapse, they might have been more resistant to declaring a victory in Afghanistan and moving ahead with the invasion of Iraq. Garterstein-Ross warns of the dangers of similarly declaring victory in the war on terror.
The New War to End All Wars?
Is the death of bin Laden a meaningless milestone in a needless war? Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, examines the similarities between the Iraq and Afghan wars and World War I. While the Iraq War has some of the most obvious comparisons—the flimsy excuses for war, the mistaken belief in quick victory—Hochschild writes that there are some important similarities between the war to end all wars and the Afghan war, too. While Hochschild does not deny the U.S.’s justification to enter Afghanistan in 2001, there is still the undeniable fact that many more Afghan civilians have died since the invasion, he argues. “Someday, I have no doubt, the dead from today’s wars will be seen with a similar sense of sorrow as needless loss and folly as those millions of men who lie in the vast military cemeteries that spread along the old front line in France and Belgium—and tens of millions of Americans will feel a similar revulsion for the politicians and generals who were so spendthrift with other’s lives,” Hochschild writes.
How to Break the al Qaeda Franchise
Now that bin Laden is dead, Ahmed Rashid writes in the Financial Times that Muslim leaders need to seize this opportunity to show once and for all it is possible to live freely without the burden of extremism. With bin Laden dead, there is no more symbol of extremism in the Muslim world—but Muslims and the West must take care not to let this moment slip by, and allow other extremists to take bin Laden’s place. “This is a watershed moment,” Rashid writes. “The question is can the West and the Muslim world grasp it?”
Bin Laden Was Irrelevant Even Before His Death
It was a question many wondered before bin Laden’s death: Given the turmoil fueled by democracy movements in the Arab World, had he become irrelevant? Fouad Ajami writes that American power had held steady in the Islamic world and helped foster the so-called Arab Spring democracy movements. “It was bin Laden’s deserved fate to be struck down when an entirely different Arab world was struggling to be born,” Ajami writes. “The Arab Spring is a repudiation of everything Osama bin Laden preached and stood for.” Not only had bin Laden’s message fallen on deaf ears in recent years, but his ignoble demise in a mansion in the suburbs—not in the caves of a martyr—just proved how much bin Laden had outlived his time and usefulness.
Was Killing bin Laden Legal?
Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin tackles this one in the New Yorker, writing that despite the executive order against political assassination, pretty much every president of the time has had a bounty out on bin Laden. Toobin notes that “no one is shedding any tears about bin Laden’s death,” but that his death did ignore the political assassination ban. “It is, to put it mildly, an easy power to abuse … but the number of people for whom that is true is small.” Bin Laden Was “Enormously Successful”
Given bin Laden’s death, and the fractured terrorist network he left behind, does it make sense to say he was “enormously successful”? Ezra Klein writes that the trillions the U.S. has spent on the overseas wars and national security have severely hurt the U.S. economy—part of bin Laden’s plan for the America. Although Klein concedes that it’s inaccurate to say bin Laden cost the U.S. all that money—after all, it was the U.S.’s decision to go into Iraq and spend so much on homeland security—but at the same time, bin Laden was nearly able to provoke the country into bankrupting itself. “It’s a smart play against a superpower,” Klein writes, noting thatthe U.S. can learn from its mistakes.