Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden Dies a Failure

This morning, the media has been abuzz with the news of the raid by a Navy SEAL team under the authority of the CIA which killed Osama bin Laden with two gunshots to the left side of the head. Two couriers, one of Bin Laden's sons, and a woman used as a shield by a man in the compound were also killed in the raid.

I will be monitoring closely the reaction of the Arab world to the strike, as well as the fallout from Hamas' condemnation. Check back here over the coming hours and days for more coverage.

The most important component of today's story is that Bin Laden was buried at sea, in accordance with Islamic tradition, a basic modicum of respect which al-Qaeda itself has not shown many of its Muslim victims in Iraq and elsewhere. Even more important than illustrating the obvious moral high ground of the United States, the action demonstrates the Bin Laden's failure to advance his extremist ideology.

That the US, an al-Qaeda target country with thousands of al-Qaeda-imposed casualties, still upheld the Islamic value of respect for a human being over retribution is the ultimate sign of Osama bin Laden's failure. Radical groups seek to spread their particular ideology as the "true" Islam. This ideology does not distinguish between civilian and soldier, it does not show respect for human rights, and it justifies the intentional and brutal targeting of innocent people. Osama bin Laden was given a burial with fundamental disregard for these vicious and hateful ideas by one of the governments who despised him the most.

The burial demonstrates conclusively that Bin Laden has failed. Today, the United States sent a strong message that it ultimately makes policy based on the moderate center of Islam, not its radical fringes.

Al-Qaeda is still dangerous but it is a shadow of its former self. The massive change in world order that al-Qaeda failed to accomplish with violence in ten years, the Arab people have accomplished peacefully in two months. They have done so with the support of the West, putting to rest the notions of a fundamental "clash of civilizations" which al-Qaeda worked so hard to exacerbate. And they have put Islamist terrorist organizations into a struggle to keep up with the speed at which the universal values of fair representation, freedom of expression, and personal liberty are being legitimized across the Arab world.

What matters today is the hard work and countless hours put in by analysts and service-members and the sense of closure the strike brings, tinged with the bitter truth that no number of strikes or targeted killings can undo 9/11 and its 2,819 victims. What matters is that the strike was authorized by the current president of the United States, an African American man with the middle name Hussein who spent time growing up in the largest Muslim country on Earth and granted his first interview as President to al-Arabiya. Osama bin Laden was killed last night but the fear he tried to strike in the hearts of the American people was conquered long ago.

Bin Laden's death does not fundamentally change the US strategic calculus in Afghanistan or Pakistan. It does not represent the end of Islamist extremism, and it does not change the relationship between the West and the Islamic world. There is perhaps no more fitting set of conditions in which Osama bin Laden, an infidel against humanity, should meet his end.


  1. Thank you for the intriguing and most common sense post about this matter that I have seen yet.

  2. Do you think this is a step in the "right" direction? How do you feel about Americans' reactions in Times Square?