Although there was no tone of triumphalism in Pres. Obama’s announcement of bin Laden’s killing, there certainly was in the rejoicing in the streets. Very much like I saw in the streets around here after the Red Sox won the World Series or the Patriots the Super Bowl. But there’s no blowback for gloating then; all that we have done in concluding this chapter in this manner has been to perpetuate the arrogant unilateral projection of power for which 9-11 was blowback in the first place.
There does not seem to be any indication that there was an attempt to take bin Laden into custody alive and bring him to justice rather than assassinating him. In fact, indications are that Pres. Obama considered bombing the compound rather than storming it and that the decision hinged only on the capability of recovering bin Laden’s body.
What is at stake in how we react to this is the perpetuation of our use of the war on terror as an excuse to continue to do whatever we want in the world. There has been much talk about the potential short-term risk of retaliation.But can’t you imagine that this confirmation of American hegemonism may in fact lead to a long-term exacerbation rather than an alleviation of terrorist activity?
Bin Laden’s death has very little strategic significance but is rather being played for its symbolic value. He was not germane to the conduct of most terrorist actions around the world. Al Qaeda has never been a structured organization so much as a cluster of affiliates operating independently, without central planning, united only by sharing jihadist ends.
The rejoicing in the streets reminded me of nothing so much as the
barbarity of anti-American mob scenes that have perennially graced the
evening news reports, including the scenes of jubilation at various places around the world when the Twin Towers came down.