So Osama bin Laden’s dead. Now what? Things are going to change, but not in the way you might think.
First off, the rest of the world isn’t going to fall over itself about this. Americans might be concerned about the collective yawn coming from Europe, but they really shouldn’t read too much into it. Europe just has a better historical perspective on these things. European leaders have been fighting Islamic aggression for nearly a thousand years ― starting with the Crusades, when various European leaders set about reclaiming all the land Prophet Muhammad had taken by bloodshed. So when French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both say that Binny-in-a-box is indeed good news but the fight against international terrorism is ongoing, they’re just stating fact rather than underplaying it.
In a predictable display of one-upmanship, the Russians responded to America’s victory celebration by announcing that they killed bin Laden, too ― the Russian one. Four days after the bin Laden death announcement, Russia’s anti-terror forces said they had killed Doger Sevdet, “the bin Laden of the North Caucasus.”
This goes even further in proving the point that Islamic extremism is, was and probably always will be everywhere oxygen can be found ― and while victory is welcome, it needs to be put into perspective. You could even say that fighting Islamic extremism is the one thing uniting communist and capitalist countries: China is fighting them in Xinjiang, Russia has the Chechens, and policies on everything from security to immigration have been changing in Western democracies to address this reality.
One thing likely to change is an increased use of secret troops. When was the last time you heard Obama talk about U.S. troops waging war on the ground in Pakistan? You didn’t. In fact, the reason America was sending aid money into Pakistan was supposed to be so that the Pakistani government could handle any anti-terrorism efforts and Binny-locating themselves. Yet approximately 200 American military and their equipment were on the ground, according to a count disclosed early last year.
Additionally, or maybe inclusively, there are the independent, privately contracted soldiers of fortune and intelligence experts for whom the state doesn’t have to account, and who operate without the protections of the state in high-risk/high-pay missions. In 2009, one such operation, whose mission was to protect the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan, had its offices raided and weapons seized by Pakistani police. If these contractors are getting the job done effectively while keeping the body count limited to guys like bin Laden, then expect an increase in their use. That way, America can similarly remain “out” of other countries where terrorists need rooting out.
Support for military proxies isn’t going to change. Some would argue that because bin Laden was an asset to the U.S. government in fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s, the fact that we’ve now come full circle with him and have him in permanent containment means that America is finally at the end of a hard, long lesson about outsourcing war to local leaders in foreign lands. But this will never be the take-home message, nor should it be. America can’t be everywhere, yet its economic and security interests are.
I realize that this is like saying Hitler did a fine job making the trains run on time in Europe, but bin Laden did indeed do well against the Soviets during the Cold War ― just as Saddam Hussein competently handled Iran when it was in America’s interest. The trend will continue: We’re seeing Western countries provide aid to Libyan rebels in their effort to fight Gadhafi. Interests often change quickly. Just a few short years ago, for instance, the West was making aid, equipment and weapons deals with Gadhafi in exchange for his promise to fight Islamic terrorism in the wake of the Iraq invasion. Now, we’re actively supporting his opposition.
The problem isn’t the assistance itself. If they aren’t getting it from America and Europe, then they’ll be getting it from China or Russia, who have no trouble circumventing international embargoes. It’s the lack of oversight in the period following their usefulness that becomes dangerous. Bin Laden didn’t suddenly become a thorn in our sides. It was a shift that happened gradually, and should have been detected and handled long before it became a worldwide phenomenon. He should have been supervised like a 3-year-old in a room full of guns and chocolate bars.
And finally, now that bin Laden’s dead, at least that airport security agent won’t have any reason left to plunge his arm down your pants up to his shoulder. Just kidding. When humanity is extinct and all that’s left of us is hieroglyphics, we will be represented by an Islamist blowing something up, and a transportation security agent diving headlong into a pair of underwear.
By Rachel Marsden
Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and former Fox News host who writes regularly for major publications in the U.S. and abroad. ― Ed.
(Tribune Media Services)