Killing Osama was an important step in the War on Terror. It brought justice to the victims of 9/11 and gave a psychological boost to the West. It showed our resolve and serves as a warning to any future assailants. It also showcased the excellence of our armed forces.
But going after Bin Laden was the lowest common denominator of the War on Terror, something on which most of our varied political forces could agree. Do we pursue regime changes in the Middle East? Get rid of all terrorist groups? Destroy Al Qaida? Zero in on Osama? The last goal is the least ambitious and palatable to the most.
When Nazi Germany fell, Hitler committed suicide. He didn’t commit suicide after loosing Stalingrad or retreating from Poland. His death marked the end of war. We killed Bin Laden, and it kind of feels like closure, but is it? Hillary has to warn us that the war is far from over, and the warning goes first and foremost to her own party which includes a sizable pacifist faction. I’m interested to see how the Democratic party will now formulate foreign policy vis-a-vis the War on Terror, and whether it will be able to sell this policy to the mainstream voter.
I don’t think conservatives who pay attention will suddenly see Obama as a strong military leader. Conservatives know that he deserves credit for carrying on with the policies of the Bush Administration, and that these are the policies (like designating Al Qaida detainees as enemy combatants and targeted assassinations) that he initially opposed. Yesterday Rush gave Obama props for insisting on using the SEALs as opposed to the scorched Earth approach favored by the military: this way we can quell any future conspiracy theorists. True, but it also shows Obama’s willingness to risk American lives when other alternatives are available.
While Osama was a hugely important terrorist symbol of the first decade of the 21st century, he was virtually retired by the time we got him. He was no longer issuing orders to Al Qaida or any other terrorist network. Plus, his popularity in the Muslim world peaked in 2003. The Markets’ reaction to the news of his death was lukewarm. It might just be that an average American might feel that Osama no longer poses the kind of threat he once did. Maybe we have a short memory. Perhaps we are too preoccupied with inflation, debt and unemployment. While Obama will get some sort of a bounce in the polls, such bounce is likely be short-lived (via Political Junkie Mom).
In September 2001, I was a TA at UC Berkeley. The professor I was helping thought it necessary to reassure “the kids” in her class that they are safe, so don’t worry, and worry about the poor people of Afghanistan who are about to get bombed. I didn’t like her reaction then, and I couldn’t quite formulate my thoughts, and I didn’t have the background knowledge to back my arguments. Now I’m going to say this: at 18, these students were adults. And no, they weren’t safe, nobody ever is. As adults they need to understand that it’s important to be vigilant, and we have to be on the lookout for all terrorist and other threats. The threat of Islamism in particular is not limited to terror, and it’s paramount to prevent Islamism from infecting our democracy. Who’s on board for that fight?