After bin Laden
Eventually, Osama bin Laden's time will come to an end. He will die or be captured, or at the very least slink into a deep hole and stay silent for years in hope of avoiding death or capture. I hope that our leaders have considered a world without bin Laden and a war on terrorism that has no face.
Bin Laden is a convenient figure for hatred, search, and assault. The US military needs that kind of target, altho they prefer immobile ones like airfields and heavy water laboratories. With bin Laden at large, we have a place to direct our anger and efforts at revenge (of course, we've been hunting him for years). But what happens when we have him?
To be sure, whether he is killed or captured, there will be a hellacious backlash among Islamic fundamentalists. It will likely spark kidnappings and terrorist attacks. If he is captured, these will be followed by threats of violence and demands for his release.
These kinds of things didn't happen after the capture of Saddam Hussein but only because Hussein was widely hated by Arabs and admired by only a few cronies. Bin Laden, however, is revered (more or less) across Arab nations by young fundamentalists with beefs against America and Israel. His end will be mourned and avenged.
Regardless, terrorism around the world will not stop when bin Laden is stopped. Even al-Qaeda will not likely fade away quickly. If no alternative figurehead steps up to continue to denounce America, the movement will certainly fade away. But terrorism, driven as it is by the idealism of a misapplied Islamic fanaticism, will soldier on for many years to come.
The worst that could happen is that George W Bush could hail the capture or casualty of Osama as another "Mission Accomplished!" The arrogance of such an act would likely spark more attacks instead of fewer because bin Laden has no power to negotiate a treaty. Catching a figurehead can only be symbolic. After all, in a war against an unorganized enemy, there can be no peace talks, no armistice, no détente.
Without a nominal enemy to hunt down and kill, the American military will be at a loss. Special Forces units will still be useful, but is our government smart enough to invest in more of them and to integrate them with CIA operatives, informants, and translators? We need a long-term, low-level presence of Special Forces military advisors in Afghanistan and Iraq, helping local defense forces to root out terrorists and insurgents. It clearly does not work to flood a country with hordes of Okie peacekeepers with no grasp of Arabic, Arab culture, or Islam.
But more than any military solution, we need a social solution. It's hard to say what could help young Arab Muslims abandon anti-American prejudices and embrace democracy, but it's certainly not bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. You can't smother a fire with gasoline.
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Mike Farrell writes (Sep 7, 2007):
"But terrorism, driven as it is by the idealism of a misapplied Islamic fanaticism, will soldier on for many years to come."
American foreign policy is certainly an inciting factor, but most Mid-East terrorism is directed by Muslims at other Muslims and at Jews, not at Americans. Moreover, bad American foreign policy in other parts of the world has produced communist overthrows and guerrilla wars and very little terrorism, especially suicide bombings. Blaming the US solely for the methods used by some of its enemies is the simplistic answer. —DJ
Also from your essay:
When I wrote the article in mid-2004, pulling troops out would have been a horrible disaster. Today, it is absolutely the only good option. I disagree that the US is not special. I'm pretty sure that it's the only great power in history that didn't try to conquor the world. Still, there is no reason to respect the sovereignty of murderous dictatorial regimes, let alone petty warlords, or even—on another level—unfair trade practices. All nations should be united in dealing with such issues. —DJ
Robert Leach writes (Sept 7, 2007):
You're beating a dead horse
This article was written three-and-a-half years ago. —DJ
Max Fortres writes (Sept 7, 2007):
IF HE DIED IN LATE 2001, HOW IS THIS LATEST PICTURE FROM 2004? IS IT AN ISLAMIC CUSTOM TO SEND OUT TRAILER IN ADVANCE OF UPCOMING TERROR VIDEOS?
I didn't say he was dead. —DJ
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