Osama bin Laden is dead, killed by U.S. forces who executed a mission Sunday to confront al-Qaida’s leader.
Credit belongs to many players. For months, U.S. intelligence teams carefully followed up on leads that placed bin Laden in a small town in Pakistan. President Barack Obama and his staff made finding bin Laden a priority. A team of Navy Seals succeeded in pulling off Sunday’s mission with barely a hitch.
Spontaneous celebrations broke out across U.S. cities and towns when the nation learned that bin Laden had been killed. Justice being served to the mastermind behind the deadly 9/11 attacks was the news needed by a weary nation, weighed down by a sagging economy and adapting to rapid changes across the Middle East.
As Obama announced the success of a U.S. mission against bin Laden, chants of “USA, USA” rang out in street corners, ball fields and anywhere large crowds were gathered. This was no less so in New York and Washington, two cities targeted by al-Qaida’s terrorists on 9/11.
There, amid the flag-waving and revelry, was a testament to the robust spirit of Americans. Terrorists wish to frighten their enemies, paralyzing them in fear in the wake of deadly violence. Bin Laden believed acts of terrorism would scare Americans into compliance with his radical and bloody version of Islam. Yet, almost 10 years after the deaths of 3,000 on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans took to the streets to mark the death of this evil man.
We are not afraid.
We must, however, remain vigilant and wise.
Bin Laden’s terrorist network and others sympathetic to its cause are still a threat, both to the West and all Muslims who reject the jihadists’ fundamentalism. Decentralized terrorist cells may have been inspired by bin Laden, but they aren’t dependent on him for money and planning. They are a danger.
So, the fight continues in a multi-front war. Precise intelligence-gathering and nimble strikes against terror plotters must not cease. This weekend’s killing of bin Laden is an example of the hidden war against terrorists. The battles are not led by massive armies marching across large battlefields. Instead, highly trained specialists act with precision on carefully scrutinized intelligence.
For the long run, the Middle Eastern populations where jihadists have had success recruiting must be shown a different vision of the West. The Arab Spring with its toppling of despots, gravitation toward freedom and democratic urges offers hope in this effort. Now is the time for the United States to help this effort in any way it can, not with the barrel of a gun but with friendly outreach that destroys this terrorists’ stereotypes of Americans.
Pakistan is a key front in that effort to teach American values to the Islamic world. Despite huge, expensive U.S. military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, bin Laden was found in Pakistan. His residence wasn’t some primitive cave in a remote corner of the nation; it was in a residential neighborhood of Abbottabad, a short drive from the capital of Islamabad.
Pakistan has been both friend and foe since 9/11. Early reports suggest that the Obama White House kept the Pakistani government in the dark about its plans for the walled compound in Abbottabad. The risk of exposure to Pakistani security forces sympathetic to bin Laden was too great.
The push and pull between anti-Western fundamentalists and democratic modernists is being played out in Pakistan. While we celebrate justice being applied to bin Laden, we must remember that the long and complicated war will continue.