Almost a decade after 9/11, Bin Laden was killed by US Navy Seals. While conspiracy theorists are already hard at work, it seems reasonable to believe that Bin Laden is dead and buried at sea.
There was considerable celebration in America and the general consensus seems to be that justice has been done. While this can be debated, Bin Laden certainly had earned a violent death.
One matter of considerable concern is what impact this death will have on the world. On one hand, this event might be assessed as far less significant than it appears. After all, Al Qaeda’s significance had been steadily declining and it seemed to have been reduced to largely ineffective attacks (such as the underwear bomber). As such, Bin Laden’s death might actually have little impact since Al Qaeda was already in severe decline. In fact, it might be suspected that his declining significance led to his death-perhaps he was no longer worthy of Pakistan’s effort to protect him (assuming they had been protecting him).
On the other hand, the event can be regarded as very significant. First, it does seem important that the United States finally got him, even though it seems almost absurd that it took us a decade and vast expenditures of money to get him. As long as Bin Laden remained on the loose he showed that America could be attacked and that he could avoid our retaliation. This also helped create a myth of invulnerability about him-that God was watching out for him. His death certainly lays that myth to rest.
Second, there is the fact that his death can help bring some closure to 9/11. Of course, no matter how many people we kill, the dead will never return to life.
Third, his death should help Obama politically. While people have, oddly enough, been thanking Bush, the credit would seem to belong to Obama. America’s greatest perceived enemy was taken down at Obama’s order, which should help boost his approval ratings, at least for a while. It should also help reduce, if only slightly, the perception among some that Obama is a secret Muslim, weak, and unwilling to be tough on terror. Whether this will help Obama with the 2012 election or not remains to be seen-but it certainly will not hurt his chances.
Fourth, there is the obvious concern that Al Qaeda and others friendly to what is left of that organization will seek revenge. Of course, they have presumably been trying to kill us all along, so this impact might not be as great as it appears. Bin Laden had been rather effective at alienating many Muslims by being willing to kill other Muslims, so the number of people seeking vengeance for his death might not be as large as some might suspect.
Fifth, the fact that Bin Laden was found in Pakistan living in a mansion seems to indicate that he either enjoyed a generally positive relationship with influential people in Pakistan or that Pakistani intelligence is hopelessly inept (or perhaps just very unlucky). Of course, Pakistan is at best a dubious ally and has routinely worked with terrorist groups in the hopes of using them to counter India.
Sixth, his death will most likely serve to weaken or even destroy Al Qaeda (at least what is left of it). While it will no doubt inspire some people to seek vengeance, it will probably have a greater impact against terrorism. It is my hope that future historians will mark his death as the beginning of a major decline in terrorism. However, to hope and to receive are two very different things.
As a final point, I do wonder what sort of reception he received in the afterlife (if any).