Bin Laden Is Dead: Now the Hard Part

Enough with the flag waving and chest-thumping already! Osama bin Laden is dead and the world is a decidedly better place without him. Be glad, but don’t rejoice, because his death will also make the world a more dangerous place in the near future. The last thing the planet needs is a group of yahoo provocateurs to make it worse.

Let’s start with the obvious. Was Osama holed up in a mountain cave shivering, raged, and subsisting on tinned food? He was not. He was hidden in plain view--in a luxury compound. And where was that compound? Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city. It was located in an affluent neighborhood less than half a mile from a large military academy. Uh oh. President Barack Obama did not inform Pakistan’s President Arif Zardari of the raid until it was over and with good reason. We have known for a long time that bin Laden was in Pakistan, that he enjoyed great support from factions there, and that he was receiving logistical support from officials high up in the Pakistani government. President Obama’s intelligence sources no doubt told him that informing Zardari in advance would have led to U.S. Navy Seals storming an empty compound. Score one for Obama, who managed to do something his inept predecessor George W. Bush never managed to do--keep his mouth shut instead of bragging and swaggering.

Again, though, let’s take stock of the plain facts. Pakistan is, simply, part of the problem, not an ally in the war on terrorism. The Al-Qaida network is in bed with elements of Pakistan’s government, its middle class, and parts of its military hierarchy and officer class. We have but to step next door to Afghanistan to see how widespread the problem is. There we find another erstwhile ally, President Hamad Karzai, who also plays terrorist-seeker, but is believed to be secretly chummy with Al-Qaida. He’s also as crooked as a U-turn. Would anyone be surprised to see former Taliban head Mullah Mohammed Omar turn up in Kabul? To make matters worse, Al-Qaida is probably stronger in Yemen (and maybe Indonesia) than it is in either Pakistan or Afghanistan.

There was no “mission accomplished!” nonsense from President Barack Obama when he announced bin Laden’s death. He knows full well that there are dozens of future bin Ladens ready to step into his now-martyred shoes. He also wisely warned that revenge attacks are likely to ensue. Look for quite a few of them to occur in places Fox-watching Americans have foolishly allowed themselves to think are in the midst of “reforms” that will bring “democracy”--Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Tunisia…. (Americans use the word ‘democracy’ like it’s a Harry Potter-like magical incantation even though most of them can’t be bothered to exercise it at home!) Count on the fact that both Palestine and Saudi Arabia will come into play in a negative way, and it goes without saying that U.S. targets must be hyper-vigilant in the days to come.

Long term? Several things suggest themselves:

1. Quiet but persistent military and financial disengagement from both Pakistan and Afghanistan; the first is simply the second without the war damage. Every dime spent in aid to either nation is a subsidy for corruption and anti-Americanism. The United States should get out of the imposed “democracy” business. It will probably mean a return of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the rise of an overtly theocratic government in Pakistan. To be blunt about it, it’s simply none of our business. To be even more frank, who cares? Change must come internally, not through U.S. bombs and dollars. While we’re at it, pull back from the treacherous Saudis as well.

2. Increased rapprochement with India and China. I’ve never understood why the U.S. viewed Pakistan as its natural ally in the region, when India--though it has myriad problems of its own--has been far more stable, powerful, and open to the Western world. Southern Asia is likely to be tense for some time; hence the U.S. should cozy up to the two powers least likely to be affected by upheaval. But let India and China emerge as regional powers and end the nonsense that Washington-based think tanks can direct the region like a symphonic conductor.

3. Turn off the oil taps. This is more than thirty years overdue, largely because another fool, Ronald Reagan, convinced Americans there was plenty of oil. There isn’t, and what does exist is in the hands of people who don’t like us. We need a national energy policy, now. (We needed it when Jimmy Carter called for it in รก1978!) Let’s take the cash currently propping up tyrants and pump it into a Manhattan Project for Energy. This would allow for slow disengagement from both Southern Asia and the Middle East that would be good for everyone involved. Curtailing OPEC blackmail that sends the economy into periodic paroxysms would be a boon to Americans, but there’s also a potential geopolitical gain. If the United States ended oil diplomacy, would it correspond with rising credibility among regional leaders? It’s a premise worth testing.

Osama bin Laden is dead. Now comes the hard part.

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