Bin Laden, No More
America’s most wanted meets his Maker. What’s the significance of his death?


I don’t think there is a veteran who ever held a rifle in harm’s way that isn’t envious of the hero who got to see Osama bin Laden’s face as he confronted American vengeance. I imagine bin Laden hearing the English of infidels before he smelled the cordite from their ammunition. He must have seen the strobes of gunfire in the dark. The tinny pops and whines of rounds echoing throughout his building. Sand-speckled boots shuffling toward his door.

We all pacified evil collectively through the MP5s of a few Navy SEALs we will never meet or know.

This morning I exchanged e-mails with friends in Helmand Province. They moved out on mission today as on any other day. Dusty. Tired. Full of resolve, but weary of the new Taliban offensive under way.

Nothing that happened overnight seems to have fazed them. Nothing that lies in wait will faze these warriors either. I pray that they had the chance to see the footage of college students forgoing studying for their finals to join random citizens in clogging the streets of American cities. They chanted “U.S.A.”; they waved flags.

Spontaneous eruptions of patriotism transformed New York City subway passengers into a choir of patriots singing our national anthem. This support has been noticeably absent for the last nine years.

It has been long needed.

We must make sure that this fire of support is not suppressed by apathy, as it was after 9/11. In Osama bin Laden, we have killed a mascot — an icon of terror, but a coward who died as he lived, hiding behind innocent noncombatants.

This war is not over, but I pray that bin Laden’s death has made Americans feel good about fighting it again. May this feeling of victory over evil propel us to continue to destroy the many threats we have yet to face and never forget the valor of those who pull the triggers in our name.

 — David Bellavia is a former army staff sergeant who served in Iraq. He is the author of House to House: A Soldier’s Memoir.

James Jay Carafano

Yes, al-Qaeda surely will seek some sort of revenge for Osama bin Laden’s death. That said, reports that New York City is now beefing up security to prevent a retaliatory attack don’t make much sense. It’s better to err on the side of caution, I suppose, but al-Qaeda has been trying to strike the Big Apple again for a long time without success. Clearly, it’s a well-protected target. And even if the group’s leaders started now, it might be months or years before they will be in a position to launch a revenge attack. For the time being, New York should better husband its overtime.

— James Jay Carafano is director of the Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.

Mary Habeck

The death of bin Laden has important implications for the global jihadist coalition that he created and led. All the leaders of al-Qaeda’s branches (in Yemen, Somalia, North Africa, Iraq, and elsewhere), as well as the heads of smaller jihadist groups (e.g., in the Gaza Strip), have sworn a personal oath of loyalty to bin Laden as their amir (commander). This oath, known as “bay’a,” binds the one who pledges to hear and obey the amir until death. It is the main source of al-Qaeda’s authority to command and control extremist groups worldwide. With bin Laden’s death, every leader of these groups will have the opportunity to rethink his connection to al-Qaeda and decide whether to swear another oath to bin Laden’s successor, since bay’a, like a medieval oath of fealty, is given to a particular person and does not automatically shift to a new amir. The U.S. and the world now have a window of opportunity to reach out to these men and convince them not to blindly pledge their loyalty, fighters, and willingness for violence to the new chief of al-Qaeda.

 — Mary Habeck is an associate professor at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.