Today, I am proud to have been here. Not yesterday. Probably not tomorrow. But today, I am .
A few thoughts:
- President Obama deserves some credit here. He brushed aside diplomatic concerns and gave his support to aggressive operations inside Pakistan, with or without Pakistani cooperation. This was always a high-risk strategy (and may yet generate blowback), but it seems to have yielded fruit. Yet weirdly, judging from his speech a few hours ago, Obama seems more interested in leveraging his success for support of his domestic agenda rather than a specific set of goals with respect to terrorism.
- Operationally, bin Laden’s death does little to diminish the near-term threat of terrorism. Al Qaeda – and Islamism in general – has always been a highly distributed movement, with very little in the way of command and control from the top. bin Laden himself is something of a figurehead at this point.
- Which is not to say that figureheads are strategically valueless. Long term, whether Osama’s death discourages would-be jihadists or provokes them to renewed efforts remains to be seen; certainly our military is predicting the second in the near term, given our worldwide elevation of alert levels and force protection measures.
- Back to the blowback: this is probably not good for the government of Pakistan. Either they helped us – and collaborated with the enemies of Islam – or they didn’t – and were powerless to stop a military operation in their capital city. Either way (and let’s face it; nothing will stop Pakistanis from believing both simultaneously), the credibility of Pakistan’s government just took a nosedive.
- Obama ought to get a short-term bump in the polls because of this. But more people may start to question our continued presence in Afghanistan, given that we now have what we came for. These questions will be most urgent if, as we are expecting locally, the Afghanis riot in protest. Since Obama is unlikely to withdraw from Afghanistan, unlikely to see his nation-building efforts result in sustainable progress, and unlikely to undertake meaningful steps to promote American security like controlling our borders, I predict Obama will find it difficult to translate this event into 2012 electoral victories.