The Corner

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Bin Laden — Ne Requiescat in Pace


The death of bin Laden is as welcome as it raises strange afterthoughts. First, what a relief that we are all united in joy at the news. Second, it is a relief that he was not captured by a foreign nation. And good too that we did not bring him back alive to repeat the KSM fiasco. It is also fortuitous that his demise came at the hands of U.S. soldiers in battle on the ground, rather than from the air via Predator drones — it reflects far better on the audacity and skill of our troops, and, far more importantly, allows us to bring his corpse back for positive I.D. 

Since January, the Arab world is in turmoil, its attention elsewhere, its unrest fragmented and unfocused — all of which is also good, since a unified and focused outpouring of Arab Muslim solidarity for the killing of bin Laden is less likely.

Note too that since 9/11 bin Laden has been busy mostly killing Muslims, and in most polls his popularity has dropped radically. But far more importantly, how has bin Laden been hiding in such apparently comfortable surroundings, inside, rather than on the border of, Pakistan, a recipient of billions in aggregate aid? Their former mea culpa — that Waziristan was bin Laden’s likely hide-away and sadly a frontier badlands beyond their own reach — seems right now to be hollow.

So did we operate with or without Pakistan’s help? If the latter, and if it is proven that OBL was hiding in plain sight, I think it could be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back of this Orwellian partnership with Pakistan — despite the PR to come that we owe, are in debt to, etc. to Pakistan. We will need some honest talk for a change about exactly what is going on. Or is it more likely that we confronted the Pakistanis with the intelligence and they red-faced joined us at the 11th hour?

Finally, this comes at a fortunate time. No one is talking of victory any more in Afghanistan; we seem confused in Libya, so the death of bin Laden reminds us that the U.S. can still take the war to the enemy in his own backyard, and act with confidence and audacity rather than “leading from behind.” Let us hope that Dr. Zawahiri is next — though the al Qaeda generation of 2001 seems almost enfeebled now, and are nearly all scattered, killed, or captured.