Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 5, 2011

A combination plate of post-Bin Laden analysis

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on May 5, 2011

I’m very late posting today, and with little original content, but I hope you find some of the following articles interesting.

There has been an understandable deluge of analysis pouring out of every corner following Osama Bin Laden’s death.  Here is a sample of a few of the more interesting ones:

James Fallows, writing for The Atlantic, analyzes the announcement of the event and speculates on the significance:

To his further shrewdness and credit, he invoked his predecessor by name when mentioning one of George W. Bush’s bravest and most important statements:  “As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam.”

Further Bush/Obama resonance: In the best speech of his presidency, his address to the Joint Session of Congress nine days after the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush used this most memorable line: “Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.” Both Bush and Obama echoed that line tonight. Bush, in his statement: “the fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.” Obama, in his speech: “On nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.

Echoing Chris’ earlier comments:

For years anti-terrorism experts have stressed the decentralized, self-sustaining nature of al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations around the world. The elimination of the celebrated symbol and inspiration of the movement will certainly not mean the end of terrorist threats, and in the short run could trigger revenge attacks.

But here is potentially the greatest significance of this news, apart from the “bringing justice to our enemies” satisfaction: it holds the potential of marking an end to the otherwise un-endable “Global War or Terror.”

Signifying an end to a “global war” does not mean the end of a threat. America faces a daily threat from crime; for the foreseeable future Americans and others will face a continuing threat of terrorist attack; the entire world faces a threat that the thousands of nuclear warheads still in existence could destroy millions, through accidental or deliberate misuse. But we classify all those as threats, requiring our continued vigilance and best efforts to prevent them.

These comments echo Fallows’ September 2006 insightful article “Declaring Victory” where he was ahead of many in calling for an end to the “war on terrorism:”

The United States is succeeding in its struggle against terrorism. The time has come to declare the war on terror over, so that an even more effective military and diplomatic campaign can begin.

“It is not the people al-Qaeda might kill that is the threat,” he [David Kilcullen] concluded. “Our reaction is what can cause the damage. It’s al-Qaeda plus our response that creates the existential danger.”

Since 9/11, this equation has worked in al-Qaeda’s favor. That can be reversed.

Noted terrorism analyst Bruce Hoffman challenges some conventional wisdom in the wake of Bin Laden’s death in the The National Interest:

First, the assumption was that he was hiding in a cave in some isolated mountain range, cut off equally from his supporters and from the creature comforts that make life as a fugitive more bearable. Yet we learn that he’s been living a stone’s throw from the Pakistani capital, both in comfort and relative anonymity. This in turn calls into question some of the assumptions about the aid and assistance he doubtlessly would have needed to receive from a variety of plotters to be located right under the nose of the government and its military and intelligence authorities. Also, the assumption was that Bin Laden was in such isolation and so cut off from communication that he’d nearly been reduced to a figurehead, a marginal character, in al-Qaeda’s operations and destiny. His presence in an urban hub, presumably with a variety of modes of contact, calls into question the supposedly hands-off, irrelevant role he had been believed to play in al-Qaeda’s strategy and perhaps even day-to-day operations. Indeed, it may have been his active participation in key al-Qaeda decision-making and operational matters that allowed us to track him to his hideout—there must have been an unusual number people coming and going, functioning essentially as couriers. It may thus be that he’s had much more of a role in al-Qaeda than we believed.

Steve Coll, President of the New America Foundation, covers an array of issues in a New Yorker piece, including:

On where he was found

On who was living with Bin Laden

On what bin Laden’s death means for Al Qaeda

On the hunt itself

You want more?  How about a discussion on Bin Laden’s death and what it might mean for the war on terrorism, relations with Pakistan, and the situation on the ground in Afghanistan with a former CIA agent who dealt with the Pakistani security services, a Ranger who served as “Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team International Security Assistance Forces Afghanistan,” and a Pakistani journalist:


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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 6, 2011 @ 1:06 am

Well the man is dead and now whether his movement lives is an open question!
Personally I would have been happier if the USA leaders had just noted that we found him and killed him and it was necessary but we hoped that all religions and peoples of the world would unite in praying for world peace and peaceful means of resolving disputes. What message would that have sent to others?
What message did our triumphalism send?
More important than his past what do we really think and believe UBL meant for history? If my understanding is correct is vision was total withdrawal of the USA from MENA [Middle East North Africa] and obviously he did not succeed in that quest. Yet there are elements of his strategy that did succeed and now more clearly than even the ARAB Spring has revealed the frustrations of others with autocratic non-responsive rules and USA policies. It is not the USA way of life that threatens but our policies. So that is why we are the “Great Satan” and hated.
But my take is slightly different. In trying to understand something about UBL I found the book THE LOOMING TOWER the most insightful but wondering what others found for insights. And the fact that he stayed operational until the end means that many books that have appeared may need revision, and many last chapters or new final chapters of books and articles about to appear will be necessary.

Perhaps those future analyses will add to my somewhat confused understanding of why UBL so impacted his followers and even more his enemies. He is history’s child now for good or bad.

Thanks Arnold for some interesting links.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

May 6, 2011 @ 2:20 pm

Mr. Cumming, what wonderful insight and I concur as I am sure so many others do with you that maybe we should truly think out our steps before acting….

Your message herein related to the death of UBL and the statements in detail about UBL’s death would have played out much better w/another such approach as after all, other than those who truly seek the demise of humanity, much prayer is in order and certainly an effort for better understanding, as well as respect and tolerance required by mankind….

Even to AQ who chooses to use violence – the mnessage maybe better in AQ making better strides themselves among people everywhere by halting this Jihad against the infidel and the west inserting itself in the business of others – as a matter of fact, it is time to cut the tie, we are bankrupt, quickly being enslaved to poverty ourseles…it is time to cut out all funding, every dollar going outside the country –let’s take care of ourseles, our own to enable independence, smaller government, production, and rid ourselves of the special interest groups which have caused much harm to so many….

AQ is apparently simply interested in only its agenda w/no tolerance for other, radical in thought, and eventually it too will lose any strides it has made especially through professing and conducting violence against innoocents….for God is witness to all whether AQ or US and all others such as the Syrians and the “Brutes of Tehran” who kill their own in cold blood —

Only our Creator can truly judge another —

UBL was a cold blooded killer — no one, no one should kill another for the innocent is in fact, innocent and these labels such as infidel and other, take the hods, the masks off, lok each other in the eye and make every effort to better understand especially the adversary….

The senseless killing of others affronts our Creator in every way….He is looking to see thlse who are repenting and it is these fellow human beings who will be Blessed!

God Bless America!

Christopher Tingus
PO Box 1612
Harwich, MA 02645 USA

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