MUCH ACTION CONFUSED WITH
RATHER LITTLE ACCOMPLISHMENT
Notes on the killing of al-Qa'eda
leader Osama bin Laden
Monday, May 2, 2011
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
Please pardon me while I demur from participation in the celebration.
For, back when V-J Day was declared in mid-August 1945 and triggered jubilation in the streets of America (jubilation which finally allowed the American public to feel as if the "dark cloud" engendered by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor nearly four years earlier had finally been lifted) most similar to that which I witnessed on my television set in the wee hours of the morning Eastern (US) Time of Monday 2 May 2011, at least the Japanese government had- by then- capitulated and, as a result, the war was so clearly over.
Not so in this case!
Now, don't get me at all wrong, gentle reader... I shed not a single tear for Osama bin Laden... his demise, as far as this writer be concerned, is more than 9 1/2 years too late (which is actually quite a bit of the problem, of which more shortly) and, by all accounts in these still early hours after the public announcement of the event as I now type this, bin Laden died largely as the result of a variant of "suicide by cop"-- that is: he chose to fight back and, thereby, set up the very circumstances under which- to here borrow the phrasing of former President George W. Bush- Justice was brought to him rather than he to Justice.
Having said this, however, the public expression of feeling that this is, somehow, also "Victory" seems, to me, most misguided.
For there are far too many questions, most notably: how could Osama bin Laden and his entourage have lived- for a significant length of time- in such a setting (in Abbottabad, described as a "military town" [not all that far north of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad] technically, within the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan-- but, still, quite some distance from the Tribal Areas of Waziristan hard by the country's border with Afghanistan) without the knowledge- if not also the complicity- of important elements of the Pakistani government? I am, right now, rather haunted by the notion of Angelo M. Codevilla (who has, among other such, academic connections to my own alma mater, Boston University)- in his 2009 work ADVICE TO WAR PRESIDENTS: A Remedial Course in Statecraft- that amateurs (such as ordinary Jihadist terrorists "on the ground") are ever manipulated by professionals (meaning "professional intelligence agencies and operatives"). Granted, President Barack Obama simply had to- in his official announcement of bin Laden's death- laud Pakistani cooperation with the American military operation that led to this but this still begs the question as to whether such cooperation came later than it otherwise might have!
Above all else, though, there is this nagging feeling I have that only the "head" of al-Qa'eda has now been cut off while its "body" yet at least twitches with more than a little life:
after all, much of the money bin Laden had "invested" (for lack of a better term) in his organization is still out there funding potential future terrorist attacks on the United States in particular, the West in general and related interests of same all round the globe and, in addition, so called "classic" al-Qa'eda has clearly well fueled "spin-off"s (however directly or indirectly related to the main "classic" organization) such as Al-Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula and the like, not to also mention a veritable plethora of al-Qa'eda "wannabe"s.
Codevilla argues, in his book cited above, that it is senseless to think of Jihadist terrorists as having anything approaching "strategy" but I myself am more inclined to agree with George Friedman, the founder of STRATFOR, that there is something of a strategy involved- however much it might be far more of an idealistic "pipe dream": that of, somehow, restoring the Islamic Caliphate of the 7th into the 8th centuries (that which existed before the Abassids supplanted the Omayyads and the Islamic 'Empire' thus created began to break up), however much such a "puritan" concept might be flawed for the very reasons Puritanism (of whatever stripe and/or source) itself is, historically, always a failure: the fact that the goals of any and all "puritans" are based all too much on reclaiming a past that never really existed in the first place and, in any event, cannot ever again be brought into being due to the passage of time and the onward march of overall human progress since the period in which the imagined "past" actually took place.
As long as there are those who think the Arab World- if not the entire, wider Muslim World- can be so reunited under a rubric of extreme Islamic law and practice through the means of terrorist attacks upon those these same people see as obstacles to such a goal, the War on Terror must continue unabated, whether Osama bin Laden himself were alive or dead!
More to the point, however, is that we Americans are- in the end, despite the horrific events of 11 September 2001 (as well as our carrying out operations such as that which took bin Laden out)- still generally "spectators" as to what goes on in the Arab and/or Muslim World (including the recent political changes in much of the Middle East now being grouped under the rubric of "the Arab Spring"): being the world's remaining Superpower (as well as the only Superpower to be able to effectively police the three so called "trading oceans" [Atlantic, Indian and Pacific] with our "blue water" Navy) may well give us great "Field Box" seats... but this does not necessarily mean we are able to actually go out onto the field and play in the game!
I am strongly reminded here of the end of the Cold War and the concomitant collapse, first, of the Soviet 'Empire' and then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (remember the USSR, anybody? [;-)]). When the Soviet military first became well involved in- guess where?- Afghanistan just as the campaigns for the US presidential nominations in 1980 were getting underway, a number of advisors associated with the Administration of then-President Jimmy Carter suggested that this may yet prove to be the undoing of the Soviet Union itself: their view that, by the end of the 20th Century, the USSR might even have ceased to exist was most strongly derided, denounced- even excoriated- by supporters of the eventual Republican nominee for President, Ronald Reagan, who would go on to defeat the incumbent Carter come November of that year.
A dozen years later, after Reagan had already served his two four-year terms in the White House, these same supporters were giving now-ex-President Reagan fullest credit for the very end of the USSR's "shelf life"-- despite the fact that cracks in the very foundation of the Soviet 'Empire' (cracks exacerbated as the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan were more and more successfully resisted by American-backed mujahadeen fighters-- including, by the way, someone named Osama bin Laden) were, indeed, so visible before Reagan ever became President in the first place... cracks first seen by those working for the very President Ronald Reagan would unseat in the 1980 Presidential Election!
Likewise, I can well see this event as having a similar effect on the 2012 Presidential Election...
as, while the wild celebrations of ordinary Americans- of whatever Party and/or ideology- in response to the killing of Osama bin Laden (however premature *I* might, right now, think them to be) have somewhat dampened the partisan bickering in Washington as well as outside the proverbial "Beltway", it is only a matter of time before the political argument over 'to whom the credit might really be due' ensues:
President Obama (Democrat) is reaping the political rewards right now, in the immediate aftermath of the event... but already there is talk about just how much credit- or not- should also go to former President George W. Bush (Republican)... and this is all besides the reality that we cannot yet know, as I type this piece, what might happen next- positive and/or negative- as a direct result of what has so recently happened: and it is whatever is yet to happen which will have an even greater impact upon President Obama's political fortunes than the killing of Osama bin Laden itself... there are, quite obviously, other shoes yet to be dropped!
and this is precisely why, again, I ask the reader to please pardon me while I demur from participation in the celebration...
for I'd much prefer to wait until the war is actually over, thank you very much!