Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thoughts on Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden is finally dead. The biggest questions about his death remain unanswered however.

What does bin Laden’s death mean for Al Qaeda and terrorism more broadly? Perhaps terrorists view bin Laden as a martyr and launch a wave of attacks in retaliation. It is without a doubt that there will still be terrorists and that Al Qaeda will continue to operate in some fashion. But I can’t help thinking that getting bin Laden will greatly help America’s counter-terrorism efforts. Bin Laden was the most visible symbol of terrorism in the world. The fact that the US spent over 10 years trying to get him shows that it means business when it goes after terrorists. In effect, if you mastermind attacks, the US will hunt you to the ends of the earth. I think—or at least I hope—that has some deterrent effect on would-be terrorist leaders.

Secondly, what will this mean for Obama politically? In the final analysis, probably not much. George W. Bush saw his approval rating spike after American forces captured Saddam Hussein in 2003 only to see it go back down as the 2004 election approached. Similarly, Obama faces an election coming up next year where the focus will be on the economy, where Obama is not polling so well. So while this may be a short term boon, I doubt it will do much for Obama long-term.

What do you think this will do for Obama’s political fortunes? Take the poll!

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