Osama bin Laden is dead, and Americans are gathering in the streets, celebrating and waving flags. For the most part, it’s a symbolic victory— but symbols have power. What will change in the aftermath of OBL’s death?
The War on Terror
In the New York Times, David E. Sanger argues that bin Laden’s death could mean that the War on Terror will cease to be America’s chief foreign policy concern:
elimination of the central symbol of Al Qaeda offers a new opportunity
for Mr. Obama to argue that the group no longer needs to be a fixation
of American policy. […] Bin Laden’s presumed successors, including
Ayman al-Zawahri, have none of his charisma and appeal, and that his
death will lead to a fracturing of the organization. The decision to
bury Bin Laden’s body at sea was part of a carefully-calibrated effort
to avoid having a burial place that would turn into a shrine to the
Qaeda leader, a place where his adherents could declare him a martyr.”
Meanwhile, Tony Karon of TIME says that little in the realm of foreign relations will change in the post-bin-Laden era, arguing that al Qaeda has long since been overtaken in Arab hearts and minds by smaller-scale Islamic movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah:
“[Al Qaeda’s] strategy of spectacular acts of a terror had briefly allowed a band of a few hundred desperadoes to dominate America’s headlines and its nightmares, but on the ground in the Muslim world al-Qaeda had largely been a sideshow, failing miserably in its goal of rallying the Islamic world behind its banners and finding itself eclipsed by such despised rivals in the battle for Islamist leadership as Iran, Hizballah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.”
But forget about all that real-life stuff, what about the horse race? Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight says that while Obama will undoubtedly receive an “Osama bump,” by the time the 2012 election rolls around the electorate will have moved on:
“Yes, this is going to help Mr. Obama — to some degree or another — in November 2012. And yes, it’s also going to make Mr. Obama look much more formidable in the near-term. […] But, the 2012 election was probably not going to revolve around national security. Instead, the Republican nominee was probably going to attempt to make the campaign about the size of government and the future of the welfare state: how to deal with entitlement programs in the face of an increasing national debt.”
What do you think?