The death of Osama bin Laden is a major event, perhaps more important in its symbolism than in the reality of the end of Al Qaeda and terrorism. Ten years after the attacks in the United States, the "leader" of the group credited with the attacks has been killed by American forces in Pakistan.
Bin Laden had been personified as the head of the Axis of Evil. But, that is to assume that the nebulous network called Al Qaeda was organized in a hierarchical structure as a traditional military organization. It is also to assume that the War on Terror was a traditional war against a traditional enemy who could be overcome by military force.
Amid the chest-pounding satisfaction of the American people that justice has finally been done remains the fundamental question of what drove suicide bombers into the Twin Towers. The root causes of the terrorist acts around the world have been neither identified nor properly dealt with. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a stalemate, with a forthcoming announcement of a Palestinian state in September looming on the horizon.
Two questions about the death: 1) Why now? For ten years US forces unsuccessfully have been tracking bin Laden. It is perplexing that at the same time the US enters the political campaign for the Presidency, at the same time President Obama is changing his Secretary of Defense and head of the CIA, Bin Laden is found. And, he is found in Pakistan just outside Islamabad. Critics will see political motives, especially as President Obama took full credit for the control of the operation as Commander in Chief. What better way to seem presidential just before an election than to have a military victory. Forget unemployment, forget the deficit, I am in charge!
How will this effect terrorism in the future? At the same time the President announced the news, he also warned citizens to be vigilant. It could be that the killing of Bin Laden will set off a wave of terrorist activity as surprising as the recent bombing in Marrakesh. Violence begets violence, and revenge is not limited to only one side.
The War on Terror was a mistake to begin with. If the death of Osama bin Laden ends that War on both sides, whether in reality or symbolically, then so much the better.
May 2, 2011