Obama, Osama, and What Comes Next

“I’m fighting so I can die a martyr and go to heaven to meet God” – Osama Bin Laden

Bin Laden got his wish late Sunday night (Eastern Time). He fought, he died, he most surely met God. I have to say I doubt that meeting went at all like he had planned.

For the U.S. it’s a major victory. Perhaps not so much militarily – Bin Laden was fairly isolated – but certainly from a world-political standpoint it was a major victory. As Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu likes to note, terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda respect (fear) strength and victory. This is a set-back for them.

It’s also a significant political win for Barack Obama back home. I remember back to 2001 after the September 11 attacks. President Bush was struggling in the polls (along with the U.S. economy) when the towers fell. It seems that almost overnight his approval shot up to near 90%. Regardless of the president’s actions, Americans tend to rally around the leaders in stressing times. I think the echo effect of that will be good for Obama’s poll numbers. There will be a “rally around the leader” and “America loves a winner” bump. (To be sure, the bubbling controversy over birth certificates, college records, and passports has come to a screeching halt – perhaps for ever.)

The left will declare victory for Obama and laud it as proof of his capabilities as a leader. The right will respond that this was all groundwork laid by the Bush administration, and that had “the left” responded like this the first time, when Clinton could have had Bin Laden, then 9/11 wouldn’t have happened at all. I personally feel no need to defend, commend, or praise any of these guys though.

I’m more interested in what happens next. Most importantly, what do we do in Afghanistan? Bin Laden is dead. The whole reason we went into Afghanistan was to disrupt Al Qaeda’s home base and get Bin Laden. The base has been disrupted and we’ve gotten Bin Laden. Will president Obama have the guts to declare “Mission Accomplished” and get out? Now is the time – you have to strike while the iron’s hot.

It would take a truly cavalier politician to argue against leaving Afghanistan now. Show me the right-winger who would come out and claim the death of Bin Laden doesn’t change, at all, our need to provide a “nation building” function in Afghanistan. I doubt such a person exists. “But Mullah Omar is still out there.” Look, if we were in the business of toppling despots in oppressive societies … oh, wait, I see your point. Our little Libyan escapade notwithstanding, I see little reason to remain in Afghanistan if Bin Laden is gone.

“But what about the threat of a governmental collapse in Pakistan, leaving nuclear weapons up for the taking?” Yeah, I suppose it’s a real issue. But, if we were all that worried about nuclear weapons in the hands of rogue actors, don’t you think we’d be taking a bit more of a serious line on Iran?

Beyond this, it is certain (and in fact has already started), that the threats and bluster from the radicals will grow tremendously. They’re angry, hoppin’ mad, out-for-blood. Not sure how that is different from two days ago, but they’re probably more fervent about it now, somehow. Had a Republican pulled this operation off, there would have been cries from the left that these killings only make us less safe. I think that response will be muted due to Obama’s left-leaning. Still, we’ll almost surely hear, in the wake of saber rattling from the Jihadis, that the death of Bin Laden has made us less safe.

I suppose it’s even plausibly true – but that doesn’t change anything. You can’t hold back from defending yourself on the threat of “if you defend yourself, I’ll hit you even harder.” No, you have to fight back or give up – the middle ground is unstable.

Will we see an escalated terror threat? It’s possible. Quite frankly, I suspect Qaddafi is actually more dangerous on that front than the Al Qaeda remnants. But who knows?

For now, it was a good win in the “war on terror” – and it is an open door to end one of our many overseas conflicts. Will we take that bold next step? Time will tell.

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