Osama bin Laden is dead. But the war on terror goes on. So do the dramatic changes in the Middle Eastern political and social landscape.
New York Times columnist Roger Cohen is in Benghazi, Libya, and he sees bin Laden's death as emblematic of the recent uprisings in the Arab world. "There is hope in this passage from the suicidal Arab rage of 9/11 to the brave resistance of Libya's 2/17 Benghazi revolution — and the other revolutions and uprisings sweeping the region," he wrote Monday. "A long road is left to travel — Al Qaeda is not dead — but the first step was the hardest: the breaking of the captive Arab mind, the triumph of engagement over passivity, the defeat of fear."
Another New York Times article pointed out that the revolutions in Arab nations have been driven by young people, who may not have strong recollections of bin Laden and the 9/11 era: "For a man who bore some responsibility for two wars and a deepening American involvement from North Africa to Yemen and Iraq, many say, Bin Laden's death serves as an epitaph for another era. In an Arab world where three-fifths of the population is under 30, the bombings on Sept. 11, 2001, are at best a childhood memory, if that."
As for future terrorist attacks, many consider bin Laden's death to have little effect, since al-Qaida has largely become de-centralized due to American counter-terrorism efforts. CNN writes, "Does Bin Laden's death cripple al Qaeda and jihadist terrorism more broadly? Probably not. Al Qaeda long ago ceased to be a centralized operation. For the last decade bin Laden has been a figurehead than a mastermind... Nonetheless, U.S. Special Forces might have picked up valuable intelligence as they scoured bin Laden's command post that could help uncover terrorist cells and plots."
American armed forces are all too aware of the tasks ahead of them. One Marine stationed in Afghanistan told NPR of his unit's reaction to the bin Laden news: "I think that everyone's gonna be real happy about the fact that it's one bad man that can't hurt anybody else, but ... It's one more day. ... It didn't end the war for us."
Another soldier, stationed with a special forces unit in Georgia, told CNN that American troops must still be vigilant. "It's a joyous time, don't get me wrong, but we also have to look for what's to come," he said. "It's not over. You've got people who are trying to prove themselves and it'll come down to, 'We want to avenge his death,' which is something (bin Laden) most definitely taught them."
Joshua Partlow of The Washington Post said that U.S. forces will have to be wary of the continued Taliban presence in Afghanistan. "Current and former Afghan officials worried that bin Laden's death might inaugurate an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, potentially ceding more ground to the Taliban," Partlow wrote Monday. "They did not expect much additional help from Pakistan, a neighbor held in high suspicion here."
Pakistan's role in the bin Laden operation is a key issue. The Wall Street Journal wrote that the terrorist leader's death could have a big impact on further relations between the U.S. and Pakistan: "Mr. bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, 40 miles from Islamabad. President Barack Obama noted Pakistan's contribution to the raid Sunday night. Pakistan's contribution to the assault may help overcome U.S. frustration that Islamabad has not been more aggressive in reaching Mr. bin Laden."
"Is Pakistan a reliable partner for the United States?" CNN asks. "The White House didn't notify the Pakistani government in advance and Pakistani troops did not participate in the attack. Bin Laden's compound was located just forty miles north of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad -- or about the distance from Washington to Baltimore -- in a city that hosts a Pakistani military base and military academy."
"One question for careful analysis in coming days is whether some elements of Pakistani intelligence knew that bin Laden was, in effect, hiding in plain sight in a compound near a facility of the Pakistani military," wrote David Ignatius of the Washington Post. "And it will be crucial, in terms of the future, how the American operation plays in Pakistan and other Muslim nations."2 comments on this story
Regardless, the death of Osama bin Laden is a clear sign to the world that the United States will continue to battle terrorism, no matter which party controls the White House or Congress. "The U.S. dialogue on terrorism has been too partisan for too long," Huffington Post columnist Daniel B. Prieto wrote. "Decades-long bipartisan consensus allowed us to confront and defeat the Soviet Union. Let's hope that today is the beginning of the beginning of forging greater unity and consensus around how the United States will eventually prevail over the terrorist threat."