The conversation: Rethinking victory in Abbottabad in Osama bin Laden’s favor
Sure, President Obama's approval ratings are up and the victory in Abbottabad may just give him the edge he needs in the next presidential race. Still, we don’t yet know the long-term consequences of Osama bin Laden’s death, and there is the possibility that our mission wasn’t as victorious as excited crowds on Sunday night made it seem.
Bin Laden achieved exactly what he wanted
In "The Looming Tower," the Pulitzer-winning history of al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11, author Lawrence Wright lays out how Osama bin Laden’s motivation for the attacks that he planned in the 1990s, and then the September 11 attacks, was to draw the U.S. and the West into a prolonged war—an actual war in Afghanistan, and a broader global war with Islam.
Osama got both. And we gave him a prolonged war in Iraq to boot. By the end of Obama’s first term, we’ll probably top 6,000 dead U.S. troops in those two wars, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans. The cost for both wars is also now well over $1 trillion. […]
Yes, bin Laden the man is dead. But he achieved all he set out to achieve, and a hell of a lot more. He forever changed who we are as a country, and for the worse. Mostly because we let him. That isn’t something a special ops team can fix.
Al Qaeda is still a force to be reckoned with
As any expert will tell you, one of bin Laden's biggest successes is creating an organization that will survive him. When bin Laden and a few associates founded al Qaeda in 1988, the organization was tiny and relied on the Saudi millionaire for the bulk of its funding. In subsequent years the organization has grown to support insurgents throughout the Muslim world, issued propaganda swaying the views of millions and, of course, murdered thousands through terrorism and its participation in civil wars. Thousands were asked to formally join the organization, and tens of thousands received training. So al Qaeda will not collapse overnight.
Bin Ladensim continues
If Al Qaeda were to go into decline post-Bin Laden (and that is far from clear), it would not be surprising to see other jihadist organizations compete for the mantle of leading global jihad. Already other groups have adopted many of his innovations, which brought jihadism into the Information Age. The battle against Bin Laden is over, but the battle against Bin Ladensim continues.
We're still a country addicted to oil
Although in the contest to determine Mr. Bush’s successor Barack Obama offered himself as the candidate who would take a different tack, he has not done so. Since taking office, he has redoubled US military efforts in Afghanistan, while opening up new fronts in Pakistan and, more recently, Libya. Although President Obama avoids the term “war on terror,” that war – and the larger project begun back in 1915 – continues unabated. And although Mr. Obama can rightly cite the killing of Bin Laden as a notable victory, it will not prove decisive, if only because the essential issues giving rise to war in the first place remain unresolved.
We don't know: Can we trust Pakistan?
If Pakistani military intelligence did not know about this, they should have known. If they did know, the withholding of information of this importance from the U.S. is more evidence that the relationship is broken.
--Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: People rally to condemn the killing of Osama bin Laden in Karachi, Pakistan, on Tuesday. Credit: Shakil Adil / Associated Press