Osama bin Laden was a symbol of the Islamic jihad. After 9/11, surveys by al-Jazeera and other sources indicated that between 10% and 50% of Muslims regarded him as a hero. That is somewhere between 150 million and 750 million people. Symbols are important, and the death of the symbol of Islamic jihad is important. But the jihad will go on.
The fact that bin Laden was killed in a mansion near Islamabad (fitting name) is but one mark of the support he had in the Muslim world. But by the time our forces reached him, ten years after 9/11, the center of the jihad had long passed from the caves of Waziristan to the Middle East — to the Islamic Republic of Iran, to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and to the fount of the Islamic hatred and crusade against the West — the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Obama will take credit for the death of al-Qaeda’s leader, and he deserves it — for the aggressive war he waged in Pakistan in particular. This was a forward strategy that provoked the wrath of the “liberal” establishment when Nixon tried it in Vietnam, and Reagan in Libya and Bush in Iraq. Unfortunately, this is only the right hand of Obama’s strategy towards the jihad. The left hand is simultaneously stoking the fires of Islamic aggression in its heartland, the Middle East, and our war with this evil is just beginning.
In his speech tonight the President talked as though the war is a war with al-Qaeda, although al-Qaeda has played a very small and diminishing role in the 17,000 plus Islamic terrorist attacks that have been perpetrated since 9/11. After that attack, Bush swore that the United States would not tolerate terrorist regimes that threatened the democracies of the West. You’re either for us or against us he said, to the dismay of the appeasement Left. But since then Islamic terrorist regimes have been created in Lebanon and Gaza and Somalia, the Taliban has been resurgent in Pakistan and the Muslim Brotherhood has risen in Egypt. The storm clouds that are gathering — not least because of the feckless ineptitude of the Obama Administration itself — will not be dispelled by one man’s death.
There are many days of grief and suffering on the horizon still. As President Bush so rightly said in the days after 9/11, this will be a long hard war that is likely to last our lifetimes.