FOR A nation that has spent nearly a decade worrying about its homeland security, paying the price of overseas wars, and warily contending with discord in the Muslim world, Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of US forces is about the best possible news. It is vindication of a manhunt spanning presidential administrations, and involving numerous agencies and countless intelligence officers. It brings justice to the families of nearly 3,000 dead Americans and countless others around the world whose lives were shattered by bin Laden’s violent ambitions. And it removes the single most determined figure plotting the deaths of additional Americans and people around the world.
But more than all that, it carries the potential to rekindle the faith and unity that Americans felt in the first months after the 9/11 attacks. This time, however, the unity isn’t one of shock or fear, but of joy and newfound confidence. A nation that despaired of any clear victories, of any unclouded outcomes, from its years of war, can now celebrate a singular triumph. A nation that debated, and will continue to debate, the effectiveness of military force and the reliability of overseas intelligence, can now join in praise of an intelligence success and a military triumph.
In addition, Americans cannot forget the work of allies overseas. Pakistan remains a troubled nation, and one whose relationship with the United States leaves much to be desired. But the willingness of the Pakistani government, at great risk to itself, to allow US attacks on terrorist leaders on Pakistani soil was instrumental in bringing about the death of bin Laden. Even in the most difficult and troubling situations, there are acts of international courage and support that should be appreciated.
President Obama’s leadership in targeting Al Qaeda, and his single-minded devotion to the capture or death of bin Laden, helped bring about this moment. His approval of drone attacks on Al Qaeda leaders — and his ongoing diplomatic efforts to retain Pakistani support for the US missions — were important factors as well. Obama deserves great credit, as does his predecessor, George W. Bush, who first vowed to bring bin Laden to justice.
Bin Laden’s name will go down on a very short list of global villains who presented a serious threat to the lives and liberties of Americans. His death, more than that of any single enemy of the United States, is cause for rejoicing. The movement he led will continue. Al Qaeda is not defeated. Other extremist groups will step forward. But the figure most responsible for the targeting of the United States by Islamist terrorists is gone. All Americans can rest easier, and share a special sense of pride in their country.