What Does Bin Laden’s Death Mean For Us?
By now, we all have heard the monumental news that international terrorist and leader of al Qaeda not to mention prolific home video producer Osama bin Laden has been killed with two shots to the head. In the interim, we have celebrated, chanted “USA,” reached across the aisle to congratulate each other (even Rush Limbaugh is quoted as saying “Thank God for Obama,” albeit sarcastically) and we have seen the markets rally behind the news.
The question that we’d all like answered is what happens now? Mainly, this question is asked in the context of retaliation. We know bin Laden is dead, but he was a symbolic leader, making him very likely to become a martyred figure in the eyes of his followers. Even if he is dead, can’t his message and his death be used to inspire al Qaeda to act? What if they respond with various attacks throughout the world?
What happens between the U.S. and Pakistan? Pakistan was not notified of the raid beforehand and provided no assistance with the mission of killing bin Laden. Many journalists and pundits are raising eyebrows over the fact that bin Laden was effectively hiding in plain sight, as it seems there is no way the Pakistani government could not have known of bin Laden’s location. Are we looking at a new beginning for relations between the two nations or are things on the verge of falling apart?
Also, while the death of one man certainly cannot rid the world of terrorism, what will happen to the “War on Terror” started by the Bush administration and continued throughout Barack Obama‘s presidency? Will we see a relatively quick and sweeping troop drawdown and withdrawal, or will there still be a sustained effort by our military to maintain a presence in the Middle East?
Speaking of Obama, how will this affect his reelection bid? If history is an indicator, George H. W. Bush saw a surge after the favorable end to the Gulf War in 1991, but this did not last long enough to take him beyond a one-term presidency. More importantly, does the president get enough juice from this to move forward with other pressing issues more aggressively? The answer is probably not, as the political landscape is so volatile that our own domestic battle lines have been drawn and will probably not subside, even with the game-changing news of bin Laden’s death.
Ultimately, time will tell what is the best answer for most of these questions. The State Department has issued several warnings for U.S. citizens abroad, particularly those who work at American embassies throughout the world as an attack may be forthcoming. Also, regardless of the likelihood of retaliation, the U.S. has sent a quite crushing blow to al Qaeda, which indeed may struggle for a while without a leader. The problem of international terrorism has certainly not been solved, but now is as good a time as any for cautious celebration and a belief that while the arc of the universe is long, it bends toward justice.