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The conversation: Reactions to Osama bin Laden's death

May 2, 2011 |  4:44 am

61301205 News of Osama bin Laden's death was met with spontaneous and emotional celebrations. Now for the analysis.

Obama made good on his promise
While Obama's announcement of bin Laden's death will go down in history, it's impossible to know quite what effect it will have beyond that. But it does provide its own bookend, and a much a happier one, to Obama's promise, in a presidential debate with John McCain on Oct. 7, 2008, that if elected president he would hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden.

-- Joshua Green, The Atlantic

This would have meant more in 2002
It's also true that bin Laden's killing might have mattered more in 2002 or 2003. At that time in countries like Pakistan, many ordinary people had a very high regard for bin Laden and doubted that he was centrally involved in the 9/11 attacks. Over time that view has changed: popular opinion has moved more against him, and you no longer see Osama t-shirts for sale in the markets. Some people still feel a bit of respect for his ability to outwit the United States, or they are so anti-American that they embrace anybody we don't like, but bin Laden has been marginalized over time.

Osama's declining image also means that he won't be a martyr in many circles (although if Americans appear too celebratory and triumphant, dancing on his grave, that may create a sympathetic backlash for Osama). Many ordinary Pakistanis, Yemenis and Afghans will simply shrug and move on. His death won't inspire people, the way it might have in 2002. And Al Qaeda is already going through a difficult time because it has been sidelined by the Arab Spring protests; on top of that, losing its top leader will be a major blow.

-- Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times' blog On The Ground

Still, the world is a safer place
For weeks, the nation's political discourse has been dominated by the silly and stupid. Donald Trump has challenged the president's legitimacy, only to be humiliated by Obama's provable birth certificate. Now, it is clear that while Obama was contesting that fatuous challenge to his leadership, he was simultaneously sifting intelligence of the most sensitive nature and authorizing an action of stupendous consequence.

Sunday night's announcement should remind the nation that the presidency is not just an office to be contested and that American values are not merely empty words to be used as political rhetoric. Obama ordered the seizure of America's most vile enemy, who resisted and was shot down. The world is better and safer for his death.

-- Los Angeles Times editorial

Even Fox News couldn't resist singing Obama's praises
You know when Fox News is singing President Obama's praises something serious has gone right in America. I mean, everybody else on every single news channel was saying that Obama -- in concert with our heroic military troops who carried out a daring attack -- pulled off one of the gutsiest, bravest operations in years.

-- Michael Flood McNulty, Opposing Views

Let’s reframe our views of national security
Yes, we all live in the shadow of September 11 -- a crime of monumental magnitude. But terrorism is not an enemy that threatens the existence of our nation; our response should not undermine the very values that define America for ourselves and the rest of the world.

The Bush Administration shamelessly exploited America's fear of terrorism for political purposes. But as we have learned, a hyper-militarized war without end will do more to weaken our democracy, and foster a new national security state, than seriously address the threats ahead. After all, what we are engaged in is not primarily a military operation. It's an intelligence-gathering operation, a law-enforcement, public-diplomacy effort.

President Obama spoke in humane and sober terms tonight. It was a relief to hear in his words reminders of those (too brief) post -9/11 days when the idea of shared sacrifice, respect for the work of public servants, firefighters, first responders, and a sense of a larger common good pervaded our society and politics. Yet after the capture and killing of bin Laden, will political leaders have the courage to say that what we face is not a "war" on terrorism?

President Obama has tragically continued too many of the Bush era's national security policies. Yet he is also a President who understands how wars threaten to undo reform Presidencies and also undermine the best values of this country. If we as citizens challenge the "war" framing, if we refuse, a decade after the savagery of 9/11's attacks, to allow "war" framing to define the national psyche and our politics, if we demand our representatives stop couching virtually all foreign policy discussion in terms of terrorism, we have a chance to build a new and more effective security template.

-- Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation

And let’s get out of Afghanistan
Along with the victory celebration, manifested concretely in the spontaneous street festival outside the White House at midnight, there's another reaction building across the country: Now, we can come home. The war in Afghanistan, which long ago lost any sane rationale, no longer has even a pretext: Even if the Taliban take over -– a highly unlikely prospect, even were the United States to pack up and leave -– there simply won't be any Al Qaeda to provide shelter to. If President Obama needs any more reason to order an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan in July, the killing of bin Laden provides a perfect opportunity to declare victory and end the war.

-- Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation

RELATED:

Lawmakers agree that it's not the end of Al Qaeda 

George W. Bush hails "momentous achievement"

Obituary: Osama bin Laden took a path of fanaticism and terror

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Osama bin Laden is seen at an undisclosed location in this television image. Credit: Associated Press

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