With the news that Osama Bin Laden was killed in attack ordered by President Obama, thousands assembled in front of the White House to celebrate the death of the man who orchestrated the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. And here we are 10 years after President Bush simplified global dissatisfaction with America as hate for freedom and told Americans to let the troops worry about the war while they go out and shop and live their lives normally. All with the promise that some day America would find and capture Bin Laden.
Since then, our nation has observed attacks in other countries such as the suicide bombings in London and Mumbai, watched as our troops have come home physically and mentally destroyed from the strains of two wars, and most recently we’ve seen firsthand that America’s noble attempts to protect citizens in countries like Libya can result in tens of thousands of innocent civilian deaths. By now, hopefully, it is clear that real American foreign policy is far less inconsequential than Bush’s innocent tales of taunting the rest of the world with free speech.
In addition, it should also be clear that unlike many other movements and rogue States throughout history, Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network is among the most organized, decentralized, and well-funded. It is virtually unstoppable. For that reason, Bin Laden’s demise feels like an elephant caught one of a thousand mice. It also feels as though the U.S. is full steam ahead toward Bin Laden’s wish for America to struggle mightily with its own politics.
It was always Bin Laden’s hope that the United States would bear the consequences of its rip shod foreign policy. That America would pay for supporting Israel while Palestinians languished without statehood or arming some rebels and authoritarian regimes while disarming others. Bin Laden sought a full scale collapse of the American economy–he pledged to bankrupt the country. As America’s politicians play embarrassing games with the debt ceiling and allow more and more American citizens to fall into the kind of abject poverty typically seen in less industrialized nations, you have to wonder how much closer America will come to fulfilling Bin Laden’s wildest fantasies.
With all the turmoil happening around the world and even within the United States, the death of one man, however diabolical, provides little solace or change but much to consider going forward. I hope that this week the media thoughtfully considers the role Bin Laden has played in the direction of American foreign and domestic policy rather than simply framing his death as a signaling change or not.