Jared Olar: With bin Laden dead, what next?
Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, what next?
Some of the consequences were immediate, as a serious and sobering world event drowned out the lingering idle and pointless jabber about Britain’s royal wedding.
Other likely consequences will not become clear for some time. It’s too soon to say how al-Qaida will react to the loss of its founder and chief ideologue, though we can expect violent attempts at reprisal.
Taking an even longer view, we may hope that the “Arab Spring” now convulsing the Arab world will lead those nations to reject bin Laden’s hardline Muslim worldview to something more moderate and peaceful. We may hope — but hopes can fail. Still, if bin Laden’s ideology ultimately wins the heart and minds of most Muslims even temporarily, at least we know he won’t be around to see it.
Other consequences aren’t too difficult to predict. For example, President Barack Obama will justly get a major boost in the polls.
As others have noted, Obama had to know he would be dooming his presidency and reelection chances if the mission had failed. He is to be commended not only for wielding the sword of justice to rid the world of a mass murderer, but for his willingness to gamble with his own political fortunes.
True, the Navy SEALs who won this battle are the real heroes. In the long run people will probably be more interested in the identities of the men chosen for this mission than in the identity of the man who ordered them into combat, much as I’m fascinated by the stories of the men who sank the Yamato but not by the fact that FDR was their commander in chief. Still, the SEALs only went to Abbottabad because their commander in chief gave the order, so let’s give credit where credit is due.
Will this victory lead to Obama’s reelection? It’s too soon to tell. President George H.W. Bush was immensely popular immediately following his victory in Kuwait, but dissatisfaction with his domestic policies led to his defeat.
Similarly, Obama’s handling, and bungling, of domestic affairs as well as foreign policy has been hurting him in the polls, and the outcome of next year’s election will probably hinge once again upon economic and fiscal matters. It will also depend on who Obama’s opponent is — and unlike Bush in 1992, Obama probably won’t face a third party challenge splitting the vote and tipping the election to the Republicans.
Looking at the effect of bin Laden’s death on the global war on terrorism, I think it’s unlikely to have much of an impact on the policies we have in place. Though Obama has condemned or criticized most of President George W. Bush’s anti-terrorism tactics and strategies, and he even vainly attempted to change some of them, Obama’s policies are substantially identical to Bush’s and played a crucial role in locating and killing bin Laden.
Of course we must keep in mind that the success of a policy or action does not make it morally right — the end cannot justify the means. If something is morally wrong, it is always morally wrong, regardless of who the president is or the party in power.
Even so, many of those who formerly railed against Bush’s policies don’t seem to be as troubled by them now that they are Obama’s policies. The virtual disappearance of the anti-war and anti-torture left over the past two years strongly suggests that for many people, it isn’t war and waterboarding per se that they don’t like, merely Republican war and waterboarding.
Bin Laden’s attacks on the U.S. were the direct and indirect reasons for our overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Almost certainly his death won’t mean a quick end to our military presence in those countries.
Though I think we had good cause to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s in our best interest to wind things down there as soon as prudently possible. Considering our nation’s looming fiscal catastrophe, we need substantial cuts in domestic as well as defense spending. That should include drawing down our military presence wherever we safely can, such as in Europe.
Obama has shown he is capable of making tough decisions, but it remains to be seen if he’s got what it takes to make the painful but necessary fiscal choices.
Jared Olar may be reached at email@example.com.