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More on Osama

May 3, 2011

Three quick additional observations on the death of Osama Bin Laden:

First, as Christopher HItchens’ argues (Slate Magazine May 2, 2011) the Pakistani security elite could not have not known his whereabouts. Abbottabad is one of the so-called “hill stations” designed for the rest and recreation of the country’s pampered commissioned officers, leaders of a military establishment that annually consumes several billion dollars of American aid. This was their territory. They live there. As Hitchens says, “It’s the sheer blatancy of it that catches the breath.”

Second, comments that his death guarantees Obama’s reelection are asinine. George H W Bush enjoyed a more comprehensive triumph in winning the first Gulf War in 1991 and with a relatively modest economic downturn lost the 1992 presidential election. Obama’s reelection prospects will be determined by unemployment in states like Pennsylvania. Last time I looked he had a 45 percent job approval rating in Pennsylvania. If the economy double dips the 2012 election is loseable for the incumbent

Third, when I witnessed the demonstrations outside the White House I was struck by how dopey the mob can be. In dealing with Islam in Pakistan, Iran and the Arab world we are dealing with societies that live under great suffocating clouds of paranoia and insecurity. Any surge of Western triumphalism forces Islamic youth into the arms of the fanatical preachers of Islamo-Fascism. As one friend reflected in an email, “Perhaps I have not read enough about the feeling people had on the death of Hitler or Stalin. But should we dance in the street at the death of a terrorist or should we solemnly reflect on the lives fanatics have taken in the name of any number of supreme beings?”

I thought the observation from one commentator that Osama had had no recent role in the tactical or strategic leadership in Afghanistan – quite possibly, in any other theatre of Jihadist warfare – was convincing. Therefore the threat is not reduced by his elimination. We may be in a phase where Islamic terrorism is now focused on local objectives such as blowing up Coptic churches and Sufi mosques rather than global targets. Remember, however, any cell is capable of picking up fissile material and transporting it to Times Square in a backpack.

Either way the movement is repellent and its chief ideologue deserved to be taken out.

  1. Vincent permalink
    May 3, 2011 2:21 pm

    Interesting read. Not sure I agree totally but a lot of interesting points raised. No doubt such conversations will for a long while yet.
    One small quib – it’s George H W Bush, not George W H Bush.

  2. Mr Squiggle permalink
    May 3, 2011 8:22 pm

    We do not have capital or corporal punishment in Australia.

    When I hear the phrase ‘justice has been done’, I am used to assuming that Justice did not involve physical harm, that is was possible to bring Justice to bear without copying the deeds of the criminal in question..

    Yes – I felt disquiet at the news that Justice involved a shot to the head.

    But I don’t disagree with it. Justice has most definitely been delivered.

    This world is better off without Bin Laden.

    I think it is possible for both thoughts to reside in the same place at this time

  3. May 3, 2011 11:00 pm

    You’re quite right Bob, the actions of the mob are quite unseemly.

    They should be dancing around firing AK-47s in the air, handing out boiled sweets to all and sundry and setting fire to as many Pakistani flags as they can get hold of, whilst chanting “Death to Pakistan/Iran/Gaza/etc etc”. Pictures of various Islamic rulers should be hurled to the ground and trampled on by everyone in the mob.

    That would be much more appropriate.

  4. thejackalscodex permalink
    May 5, 2011 3:42 pm


    A good article. When you say that arguments that this ‘guarantees’ Obama a victory, do you also deny that it hands him an advantage in the present circumstances?

    When the Republicans are hounding him about trivialities like birth certificates and questioning his patriotism, and he comes up with a substantive (PR) victory over terrorism, doesn’t that force them to backtrack from these arguments which they have spent months building up? Doesn’t it force them to choose moderate candidates over the crackpots like Trump, Palin and even Gingrich?

    I agree with you, though, that victory is not guaranteed. If the Republicans choose a candidate, like Mitch Daniels, who focuses upon fiscal issues or upon constitutional issues surrounding health care then Obama might remain in serious trouble. But they will have to abandon the national security line.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      May 5, 2011 6:27 pm

      Clearly an advantage to Obama, stunning his sillier critics from the Republican right (Palin refused to congratulate him but praised Bush ) yet one that will be absorbed and taken for granted before long. The Republicans would need to get everything right, running with a Huntsman, Romney, Daniels or Pawlenty, and unemployment in swing states have to be stubbornly high to have Obama lose. It could happen.


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