Bin Laden Is Dead, Long Live Bin Laden – OpEd


No, I haven’t become an Al Qaeda fan and I’m not drinking to the health of bin Laden’s successor.  My point is that killing one man, no matter how symbolic his life or death might be to world terrorism and the fight against it, won’t change much in the long run.  Undoubtedly, there is a new bin Laden pre-designated by his movement to take his place.  There may even be a set of pre-planned terror attacks prepared for just this eventuality as vengeance for the death of their leader.  While I’m no expert in Al Qaeda, bin Laden had to have been so isolated I don’t see how he could’ve been a key operational or even inspirational figure to Al Qaeda.  His death will likely not slow down or change much the radical Islamist agenda.

The root causes of this movement must be addressed to end its potency for a small cadre of the world’s Muslims.  The U.S. must leave Afghanistan and Iraq.  We must lead–or if not lead–get out of the way of an international campaign to pressure Israel to settle its conflict with the Palestinians.  We must get on the side of the Arab spring and stop supporting the potentates and Old Geezers of the autocracies.

I don’t think it’s that difficult ultimately for western nations like ours to get right with the Arab and Muslim world.  Despite the Al Qaeda anti-western mantra, there is no innate Arab/Muslim hate for the west.  But it is shedding the illusions that have led us to support the Shahs, Mubaraks, Salehs, and Abdullahs that seems to be difficult for our president at this time.  If we embrace the movement toward freedom exemplified by the martyrs of Daraa and Misurata, ultimately the bin Ladens will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

To do this, we will also have to recalibrate our relationship with Israel and our former knee-jerk support for its far-right governments.  There is little doubt that Barack Obama hates Bibi Netanyahu.  But disliking a leader is not the same as compelling him to do something you know he must do in order to bring peace to a region desperately crying out for it.  The truth is that while Obama may’ve achieved something that eluded two previous presidents, this is nothing compared to the heavy lifting he will have to do to truly undermine the attraction radical Islam holds for Al Qaeda and its admirers.

Recognize a Palestinian state come September in the UN General Assembly.  This will go farther than killing 10 bin Ladens in bringing credibility to the U.S. role in the Middle East.

I didn’t realize how much of a disconnect there is between my thinking about this and the general jubilation described in this passage:

The news touched off an extraordinary outpouring of emotion as crowds gathered outside the White House, in Times Square and at the Ground Zero site, waving American flags, cheering, shouting, laughing and chanting, “U.S.A., U.S.A.!” In New York City, crowds sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The author of the NY Times article I quoted above then continues with yet another vast overstatement:

Bin Laden’s demise is a defining moment in the American-led fight against terrorism…

It certainly is not a defining moment.  It’s a moment that, in the long run, means very little.  It’s the equivalent of a small victory that is part of a very long, complicated campaign.  I can’t begin to say how wrong-hearded this attitude is.  What will they say after the next terror attack?  Of course they’ll say we have to kill more of ‘em.  That’s the answer.

It was always going to be tough to defeat Barack Obama in the 2012 election.  That just became that much harder.  And the current Republican field can’t give much succor to the country’s Republicans.  The names Tweedledee and Tweedledum were made for these bozos with the chief clown among them, Donald Trump (at whom Obama took some good whacks during the Correspondents Dinner yesterday night).  Security is always a weak point for Democrats.  Considering Obama got done what neither Clinton nor Bush could before him, his security cred is sky-high and he’ll be able to milk this during the campaign.  Keep in mind that I don’t think Obama’s policies in that part of the world are effective and drone attacks and assassinations are no substitute for having a real substantive policy of addressing the Muslim world.  But he has undoubtedly achieved a coup that eluded many before him.

This article first appeared at Tikun Olam

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

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