There is still no end in sight

It is still too soon to understand the reach and implications of Osama bin Laden’s death.

by Mike Munzenrider

Osama bin Laden is dead, but we wonâÄôt know what his death will mean for months, years or âÄî as the protracted nature of the “War on Terror” shows âÄî decades.

News of President Barack ObamaâÄôs upcoming Sunday night press conference began percolating around Twitter that evening, evoking conspiratorial tweets about the president trying to co-opt Donald TrumpâÄôs TV time. Other people tweeted that they expected the worst.

As it goes, Sunday night surprise presidential press conferences are akin to early morning phone calls from oneâÄôs parents: usually not a good thing.

However, information that bin Laden was dead leaked ahead of the presidentâÄôs address. A frenzy of tweets containing elation, cynicism and “where do we go from here?” followed.

As I write just a day later, IâÄôm nowhere near understanding what the death of this infamous man means.

While this story is still processing in my mind, itâÄôs difficult not to recall hearing the 2003 news that U.S. troops had captured Saddam Hussein.

At the time, I was wasting away an afternoon at a friendâÄôs house, a buddy who had served as a Marine in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

We happened upon the news on TV and proceeded to watch for hours on end.

It seemed like a turning point, like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq might more closely resemble the short engagements we were told theyâÄôd be.

The feeling back then was even more salient sitting on the couch with a veteran, one whose name IâÄôd looked for on casualty reports for far too long, thinking him injured or dead while he was deployed.

It was a heavy moment for him, and I felt that weight as well.

I think I felt vaguely optimistic, but as history shows, that “turning point” didnâÄôt stop the Iraqi civil war or the continued death of Iraqi civilians and U.S. service people. It didnâÄôt immediately lead to a draw down of troops.

The comparison of Hussein to bin Laden is not perfect. Hussein, though brutal and sociopathic, was never âÄî as we found out âÄî a tough guy. His anti-American stance was mostly posturing, not die-hard fanaticism.

Bin Laden on the other hand was a mass murderer on U.S. shores; a scary, articulate organizer. IâÄôm torn about whether or not I can feel happy over anyoneâÄôs death, but at the same time, IâÄôm filled with a net positive feeling when I read the cover of the New York Daily News and it tells bin Laden to “Rot in Hell.”

This ambiguity of feeling makes one question the appropriateness of the impromptu street gatherings celebrating the news, all the while completely understanding the emotions that drove people to gather in the first place.

Once the excitement subsides though, itâÄôs time to try to understand what the foreign policy implications are.

ThereâÄôs no indication that this will change our Afghan policy, if at all. The operation could potentially harm U.S.-Pakistani relations. It has no bearing on the wars in which weâÄôre currently engaged.

Reading The New York TimesâÄô obituary of bin Laden is a must to further oneâÄôs understanding of the man.

It offers a cautionary bit of information to keep in mind, noting, “His greatest hope, he told supporters, was that if he died at the hands of the Americans, the Muslim world would rise up and defeat the nation that had killed him.”

ItâÄôs a chilling footnote, but not an answer to what will happen in the future, only a reminder that this story âÄî and bin LadenâÄôs legacy âÄî is far from concluded.


Mike welcomes comments at [email protected].