may 5, 2011

A Turning Point?

As we mark the death of Osama Bin Laden, America is forced to face a new world

WASHINGTON, DC - For most of the past decade, as America waged its War on Terror in the Middle East, the thought of finding the culprit of the 9/11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden, seemed to fade with each passing day. After years of waiting, Americans had grown more and more hopeless to the dream of delivering justice to the most wanted criminal in American history.

Even as recently as Saturday night at the Annual White House Correspondents Dinner, featured speaker Seth Meyers made a joke about how Bin Laden was successfully hiding from America. When the joke was made, the President could be seen as laughing while looking over to his outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Nothing was made of the look that night, but it turns out that the President and his defense team were 24 hours away from finally finishing the job of finding Bin Laden that started almost ten years ago.

Now he’s gone. After years of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, looking to find and stop as many terrorists as possible halfway around the world, the principle reason for our presence in the region is no more, taken down in a 40 minute raid by Navy Seal Team Six in Abbottabad, Pakistan. We celebrate this occasion, as it is the justice that Bin Laden deserved to receive for all of the innocent lives he proudly took on 9/11 and many other attacks throughout the world.

However, his passing is not the endgame. Far from it. The death of Bin Laden only raises more questions about our future. How did he stay hidden this whole time while living not in a dark cave, but a three-story villa in a suburban part of Pakistan? How did Pakistan not know he was there? Was it incompetence, ignorance, or worse? How will the rest of the radical extremists who conduct terrorism, already incensed by the very existence of America, react to the death of their leader by our hands? One thing is clear; the War on Terror is not over.

This fact poses challenges to the American Public that most people are simply not prepared to handle yet. Bin Laden went from the most impossible man to find in the world to captured and killed in the blink of an eye. The American public was still celebrating his death when the questions about Pakistan and the future of the Middle East began to emerge.

Keep in mind that the Arab world itself is dramatically different today than even a year ago. The Arab Spring of revolution against tyrannical rule has swept across the region in a way that has never been seen before. For instance, America had the assistance of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, who despite the oppression he mounted on his own citizens that led to his ouster, was an unwavering ally of the US. His departure leaves a vacuum in Egypt, with elements like the Muslim Brotherhood that look to potentially compromise the peace with Israel and the United States gaining momentum. Despite the peaceful democratic revolution that took place in February, America must be on the lookout to see if the Egyptian revolt deteriorates into an anti-American movement similar to Iran in the late 1970s.

Then there is Egypt’s next door neighbor, Libya, where Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has entered week 12 of defying the world by continuing the mass slaughter and destruction of his own people. Despite NATO forces attacking his compound and military strongholds, Gaddafi reacts to each attack with further cruelty, preventing migrant workers from leaving the war torn nation and even using cluster bombs, banned by much of the international community, on innocent civilians. And then we have the uprisings in Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, where the governments have responded to demands of democratic reform with unparalleled assaults on the people, using murder and barbarism to force the people to end their cries for change.

The death of Bin Laden is the end of a dark chapter, but his death unfortunately does not bring the Middle East dilemma to an end the way we hoped it would ten years ago. We must now come to accept the terrible reality that the world has gotten harder, and that Bin Laden’s passing only highlights the new challenges that have emerged in a region that was already problematic.

But Americans have reason to be optimistic despite the mounting perplexities we face. Our military was able to bring an end to the most wanted man in the world, using only a handful of our best soldiers. We may struggle to come to grips with the problems we face, but it is our armed forces that have shown us time and time again that we can accomplish any mission we set out to achieve.

We celebrate today the finding of Bin Laden, but our defense team has achieved thousands of victories without our recognition. We have captured thousands from Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other terrorist organizations, and have thwarted hundreds of new attacks on our country. We captured Khalid Sheik Muhammad, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and we were able to use intelligence we learned from his capture to find hundreds of other terrorists, including Bin Laden.

We may be in the midst of our greatest challenge, but this weekend’s capture shows that we are ready for whatever else the world wants to throw at us.