Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bin Laden

Exit Bin Laden ?
The death of Bin Laden in a firefight with US Special forces raises a lot of questions:
--The demise of the emblem of Evil gives President Obama and US intelligence a boost.  On the other hand, it further compromises Pakistan.  Bin Laden was not hiding in some fantasy cave.  He was found in a compound not far from Islamabad and close to a Pakistani base. This raises some embarrassing  questionmarks.
--It is too soon to predict the outcome.  Since 9/11, Al Qaeda has become a more decentralized organization which has lately been marginalized during the “Arab Spring” which prioritized socio-economic issues over religious ideology.
--Will Ayman al-Zawahiri take over?
--It is to be expected that certain Arab media and representatives will try to deny reality in favor of the most extravagant alternatives, as they did after 9/11.  They have a mastery of story-telling since the “1000 and 1 Nights.” Proof of what happened will be demanded but I fear that no answer will ever put an end to Bin Laden’s sordid legacy.
--Bin Laden dead doesn’t mean that Al Qaeda will give up.  Its grip on the imaginations diminished but the death of their leader might give them a shot in the arm.  Western intelligence and preparedness should be reinforced as desperate terrorist acts could be more dangerous than the rational, more cerebral acts of the past which were targeted with medical precision.
--The tide that might occur in the Arab countries is unpredictable. There might be rage, there might be resignation, there may be less room  for the usual emotional outbursts, given the new priorities that stem from the Jasmine Revolution.
--The USA should adopt a low-profile and accelerate withdrawal from Afghanistan, since one of the main purposes for their intervention is no longer there.  Al Qaeda has been closely identified with its leader. His death however is not the end of the terrorist wave he largely inspired. If he were to become a “martyr” in the eyes of the radical Islamists, one might as well expect an increase in terrorist acts at random.
--The Obama administration has shown its muscle. The Americans have their scalp. The world takes notice that the USA has both might and a technological advance unique in precision and execution.  I am sure that Bashar Assad and Muammar Quadafi will think twice.
Pakistan lost face after already having compromised its own credibility in the recent past. However, the diplomatic, intelligence and military channels are trails that cannot be allowed to get cold.
-- Conversely, the West must at all cost avoid the deadly equation:  Muslim=terrorist. The “democratic” movements in Egypt, Yemen or Syria remain fragile but our support should at least be unambiguous and not opportunistic as our previous lukewarm appeared, backing disreputable leaders who are now sent packing, via Zurich (if they can).
The Arabs have to handle their own affairs.  When called upon, or under cover of a UN mandate, we should contribute in the making of secular, rule-of-law abiding civil societies, with all means.  Non-legitimate gunboat diplomacy can only have a boomerang effect.
--Bin Laden’s end is not closure, unfortunately.  We had better prepare ourselves for what might lie ahead.  Keeping a reasonable distance is wise, ignoring is a sin.

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