Bin Laden's Death Changes U.S. Foreign Policy
May 7, 2011
Osama bin Laden’s May 1 death at the hands of U.S. Navy Seals ends a dark chapter in U.S. history, begun in 1993 when the 54-year-old terrorist was accused of trying to bomb the World Trade Center. Bin Laden was on the U.S. radar—and unofficial CIA payroll—after his Arab band of mujahedeen holy warriors evicted the Soviets from Afghanistan in 1989. No one knows the extent of Bin Laden’s falling out with the U.S. government, causing the most deadly rampage against U.S. interests in the nation’s history. No one man in recent history wreaked so much havoc on the U.S. military, civilian way of life and Western civilization than Osama bin Laden. Finding and killing Bin Laden is a game-changer to U.S. foreign policy, especially current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Much of the U.S. war on terror was based on finding and killing the perpetrator of Sept. 11.
Since Sept. 11, no one traveling on airliners across the planet could be safe again without assessing the dangers of Islamic extremism. While there are many radicals around the globe, no one articulated the Islamic cause better than Osama bin Laden, giving the historic, economic and philosophic rationale for jihad. Bin Laden’s clever reinterpretation of the Koran as Allah’s blessing for violent revolution galvanized a generation of disenfranchised youth whom Bin Laden exploited with reckless abandon. While the 54-year-old graying terrorist encouraged his followers to commit suicide for the cause, he scrambled, slithered and camouflaged himself to escape detection, living on the lam in Pakistan’s Abbottabad for the past six years. In the end, America’s pioneer justice came knocking at his door, fulfilling patient nation’s promise to mete out punishment for Sept. 11.
Losing Bin Laden is a punishing blow to the jihadist movement embodied in al-Qaeda’s global terror network. Born out of anger toward the U.S. government after serving the Soviet-Afghan War, Bin Laden retaliated. While no one knows exactly what went wrong. Bin Laden has been on a terror since ending his relationship with the CIA. By 1993, he tried but failed to blow up the World Trade Center. By 1996 he’s suspected of destroying Khobar Towers U.S. Army base in Saudi Arabia. By 1998, Bin Laden had decimated two U.S. embassies in East Africa. By 2000 he had suicide bombed the U.S.S. Cole in the Port of Aden, Yemen. And by Sept. 11, 2001, he flew airliners into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, causing unspeakable death and destruction. Since 2001, he’s been associated with countless other terrorist attacks, finally ending with his death May 1.
Al-Qaeda’s so-called No. 2 man, 59-year-old Egyptian-born physician Ayman al-Zawahiri, is some one incapable of stepping into Bin Laden’s shoes. Bin Laden’s appeal stemmed from his unofficial role as the spiritual leader of radical Islam. Unlike Zawahiri, Bin Laden presented himself, without any religious credentials, as a cleric, commanding respect among his followers. Despite Zawahiri’s religious garb, he was viewed more as an operational planner, not a spiritual leader. Bin Laden was the leader of a jihadist movement, hoping to galvanize Islamic radicalism around the planet. “I think that we will ultimately be more safe as a result of his death,” said U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.,” expressing the belief that the U.S. would see less terrorism. Terrorists loyal to Bin Laden around the globe, including U.S.-born Yemen-based Anwar al-Awlaki , no longer have the same clout.
Fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be more difficult to justify with Bin Laden’s death. While the Taliban continue to fight in Afghanistan, U.S. military knows that they were not responsible for Sept. 11. Taliban’s reclusive one-eyed leader Mullah Mohammed Omar remains incognito, hoping the U.S. pulls out to eventually win back Afghanistan. With Karazi’s power confined to Kabul, a small more mobile anti-terrorist force could neutralize the Taliban’s efforts at regaining power. U.S. efforts to keep the Taliban out have largely succeeded over the years. U.S. authorities can no longer justify the war by claiming an imminent al-Qaeda takeover. Between now the election, U.S. lawmakers will have to listen more carefully to voters asking to end the Afghan and Iraq wars. After Bin Laden’s death, Republicans have less ground to attack Barack’s defense credentials.
Bin Laden’s death changes the geopolitical landscape inside and outside the U.S. While there’s no abrupt end to al-Qaeda terrorism in the short-term, the long-term picture looks promising. Ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan helps consolidate the U.S. military, making the armed services more accessible to other battle-fronts, including Yemen, Somalia and possibly Iran. With a nearly 7-point gain in Barack's approval ratings, the president’s going to be difficult to unseat next year. When voters go to the polls in 2012, they’ll likely repay Obama for what he’s told the Navy Seals: “A job well done.” Ending Bin Laden’s nearly 20-year rampage makes the world a safer place by removing the world’s most dangerous terrorist. Whoever replaces him will not have the same sinister charisma to grow his terrorist network. Thanks to his death, Obama restored some tarnished U.S. clout.
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