Reflections on Bin Laden’s death

The news of Osama Bin Laden’s death has spread around the world like wildfire. Many Americans seem overjoyed at this news, and impromptu celebrations have broken out in New York and DC. An outpouring of yay-America-down-with-the-evil-terrorists sentiment prevailed.

I understand that many people feel that the death of Bin Laden at the hands of US operatives constitutes justice and retribution for the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Very few people have said as much, but there seems to be a sense that since the bad guy is dead the world can return to normal and all is right with the world, just like in a Disney movie. I can’t be so sure. First of all, it strikes me as simplistic to think of one person as a personification of evil. In my experience, the world is rarely so black and white. Furthermore, the idea of celebrating anyone’s death with jubilation is morally repugnant to me. Even a political enemy. Even a terrorist. His death may have been politically necessary, but that does not change the fact that he is still a human being. His death is not a cause for celebration, nor does it make America great.

The US has invested a lot of time, effort, blood, and money in Iraq and Afghanistan over the course of the past decade. The death of a terrorist figurehead will not change that investment, nor will it be the cue for America’s forces to pick up and go home. The US has reasons to stay in the Middle East, and fighting terrorism is only one of them. The death of Bin Laden is unlikely to put any kind of stop to terrorist action in the world. If anything, news of US citizens celebrating Osama’s death is likely to fuel anti-American sentiment in regions that already have no reason to love the USA but are afraid to get on its bad side. Not to mention the fact that every child who grows up in a refugee camp because US bombs destroyed his home has the motivation to become a terrorist. The US has created a lot of orphans like this–we have effectively planted dragon’s teeth. From what I have learned this year on the psychology of conflict,we’re going to be facing war for a long, long time.

Subdued response to news in Middle East (CNN)

Pakistani News in English (link courtesy of a Pakistani friend of mine)

Al Jazeera English (the best source for non-US-centric news on the Middle East)

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