UBL is Dead!

After weeks of inactivity, it is time for me to start posting again. What a better opportunity than the death of the most-wanted terrorist on the planet?

I guess first it is important to state the obvious: Usama Bin Laden’s death does not in any way mean the end of the “War on terror.” I believe most people in the United States and abroad are aware of this, but since some seem to believe otherwise, I think it is important to start from there. So what does it mean for the logistics of the Al Qaeda network? The death of its charismatic leader will certainly disorganize the hierarchic structure. Power struggles will certainly follow. The legitimacy of its new leader might be questioned by its members and minor groups might split off. However, I don’t think that Bin Laden’s death is likely to affect Al Qaeda capabilities on the longer term. First, as one of my students rightly pointed out yesterday, he and his organization were certainly prepared for this. After all, he was the most important figure on the FBI most-wanted terrorist list. He must have been expecting this. He is said to have written his testament as early as December 2001 while he was hiding inside the Tora Bora caves. Second, his role in day to day activities had already been decreasing over the past few years. He had been delegating more and more, especially to his deputy: Ayman Al Zawahiri. And third, the Al Qaeda network is a rhizomic organization, a collection of groups loosely-affiliated to the mother structure that was led by Bin Laden. His death should not affect those groups’ operational capabilities tremendously.

That being said, should the world expect a revenge strike in the coming weeks as some have predicted? I don’t think so. Al Qaeda will still be disorganized for a while and busy figuring out what to do now that its charismatic leader is gone. Also, large scale terrorist attacks are highly organized operations that cannot be conducted in such a short amount of time – unless such an operation had already been planned by one of those groups, but it would probably not have anything to do with Usama Bin Laden’s death.

If we believe that UBL’s death will not really affect Al Qaeda’s logistics in the longer term, what about the psychological effect then? It is widely believed that it will boost US forces’ pride, ego and determination, while demoralizing Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It is very likely indeed. It might put an end to the idea that a small non-state armed group can indefinitely defy the world’s most powerful military. It will strengthen the idea that no one can harm the United States without paying the price. It is true. However, one has to keep in mind that one of the 09/11 attacks’ objectives was to engage the United States in a long and exhausting “global Jihad” thousands of miles away from its shores. In that sense, not only did Bin Laden and his followers expect casualties, they also wished for an American intervention. I find it hard to believe that Al Qaeda leaders ever thought they would get away with it. Engaging the US in a “War on Terror” was part of the strategy. It is therefore very likely that Bin Laden’s death will not only be used by Al Qaeda as a symbol of martyrdom, but also as a way of proving to the world that it is strong enough to survive without its symbolic leader, as well as a way of showing the Islamic world that it has achieved its first objective: engaging the United States in a global war all the way across the globe.

This leads me to evoke the means used by Western democracies, and especially the United States in the “War on Terror;” and, most importantly, the legal and philosophical discussion that will certainly ensue in Europe and the United States. I must say that I was a little surprised by the headlines the other night. The only thing we could read was “Usama Bin Laden is dead.” The truth is, Bin Laden is not just dead. He has been killed. One could say that it is just a way of phrasing it, that is does not make a difference, but it does. Whether or not the men who conducted the operation that led to UBL’s death had been shot at or not, it is well-known that targeted assassinations have long been part of the US administration’s “War on Terror.” “We want him dead or alive” said George W. Bush. It is time, now that UBL has been killed, to bring this debate outside academia and to finally discuss the legal implications of those practices. As importantly, the philosophical implications of revenge killings need to be discussed. Counterterrorism pundits will certainly tell you that killing terrorist leaders is efficient and will save lives. First, it still has to be proven, since loose networks tend to grow heads again, much more easily than more hierarchical structures would. Second, targeted killings undermine the appeal that democracies have over terrorist networks. The right to a fair trial is constitutive of our Western democracies, Bin Laden or no Bin Laden. It is essential in a country that respects that rule of law. As soon as I heard President Obama mention justice at the end of his speech the other night, I couldn’t help but remember the inspiring answer he gave about two years to a journalist asking him about waterboarding:

“Churchill understood: you start taking shortcuts, and overtime that corrodes what’s best in the people. It corrodes the character of a country (…). Part of what makes us (…) still a beacon to the world is that we are willing to hold true to our ideals, even when it’s hard, not just when it’s easy. At the same time it takes away a critical recruitment tool that Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have used to try to demonize the United States and justify the killings of civilians.”

I believe Obama was right that day. The shortcut he and previous administrations have taken with targeted killings will certainly prove rewarding in the opinion polls, but it is likely to undermine the US image over the world. This, and the obscene scenes of celebrations that we have witnessed on Sunday night, will certainly be used as a “recruitment tool” by terrorist networks, which have at least managed one thing: bring the US down to their level. Overtime, it will have consequences.

Last but not least (since this is a blog on Afghanistan), what will be the consequences of UBL’s death on the ground in Afghanistan?  In my understanding, there will be no major consequences on the Taliban ability to fight. They will still get Al Qaeda’s support. Thus, I unfortunately don’t think it will really impact the negotiations with the Taliban. One should keep in mind that while the Taliban and Al Qaeda have strong links, they are two different groups/networks, with very different modes of operations and objectives. There is no reason to believe that UBL’s death will weaken the Taliban logistical capabilities, or their willingness to defeat the United States. In my mind, the only way it could really affect the Taliban is through changes in the Obama administration. Bin Laden’s highly publicized and politicized death is likely to legitimize counterterrorism over counterinsurgency, and comfort the US administration decision to leave Afghanistan in 2014. In that sense, it can affect Afghanistan internal dynamics.

Obviously those are just a few quick thoughts but I hope they will allow us to engage in a fruitful debate over the consequences of Usama Bin Laden’s death. I know there are many other issues to talk about that I have not tackled (the US relations with Pakistan, the body issue, conspiracy theories surrounding UBL’s death, etc.). I am not really sure about Pakistan’s involvement in the operation yet, and as far as the Bin Laden’s body is concerned, I’m sure we will hear more about it in the next days and weeks. I would rather wait, so that we can have a more informed discussion.

About Afghanopoly

I am an Assistant Professor of peace and conflict studies at Radboud University's Centre for International Conflict Analysis and Management (CICAM). I completed my PhD in Political Science at Northwestern University and Sciences Po under the supervision of Will Reno and Bertrand Badie. Among other things, I teach students about the politics of international intervention in Afghanistan and elsewhere. My research focuses on the political strategies that Afghan strongmen use to consolidate and legitimize their authority. I am particularly interested in how these actors manage to conduct their own forms of international relations. My field research brings me in contact with Afghan community leaders, politicians, diplomats and foreign military officers.
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35 Responses to UBL is Dead!

  1. M.A.G says:

    Totally agree on the celebration scenes that were just astonishing to watch. It seems that the cliché of the good guy/bad guy bang bang shoot ’em up western still resonates with the majority.

    I think this quote from one of Martin Luther King Jr’s sermons sums up my thought on the current situations:
    Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.

  2. Ian Wagreich says:

    It is worth noting that even the worst of the Nazi war criminals were tried in a public court of law at the Nuremburg war tribunals, given an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and further confront the evidence against them, and given their sentences in accordance with fundamental notions of due process. It baffles me that we don’t trust our legal system to be able to do the same today.

  3. M.A.G says:

    Agree. Furthermore, the value gained through “moral” actions is a force/factor that can’t be underestimated and how in turn that affects long term strategy and actions of the engaged nations and peoples.

    In terms of Ben Laden, the book “Ghost Wars’ summarises how he strategised “globally and unconventionally” which he achieved through “low cost terrorism”. Certainly not different to most guerilla fighters but his persuasive manner would have helped in recruitment. Without a truly formal organisational structure does it really matter if he is gone. I doubt it.

  4. Durkheim says:

    Ian – Precisely my initial reaction when I heard of his death. The ICC would have truly been legitimized had they received a case like this. Then I realized that the US rejects the Rome Statute and thus not a member of the ICC.

  5. Durkheim says:

    Very interesting article from The Atlantic entitled “How the U.S. Can Finish Off al-Qaeda”:
    It hones in on the significance of popular support and how withdrawal may be the key to defeating al-Qaeda.

  6. Valkyrie says:

    Apparently, those opposing the action the US just took are in the minority…


    I’m with President Obama. The US has given so much money to Pakistan that I think we’ve basically already bought the right to take unilateral action in a nation clearly unable to police itself and locate international terrorists hiding in its midst (was there even a realistic policy for Pakistani authorities to actually GO LOOKING in the first place?).

    Secondly, not only was the man guilty (admittedly so, too!) of mass murder, but he was found to be hiding out in a nation with nuclear capabilities and which, by the way, seems utterly unable to police itself or run a capable intel division (if it truly didn’t know he was there, and not that some corrupt officials aided in harboring him all this time).

    Also, Hitler was the legitimate ruler of an armed state, whereas terrorist leaders are running unofficial networks of outlaws. That’s why the case of Nazi war criminals is different from policies towards leaders of aggressive non-state actors (terror networks).

    Besides, our current POTUS has been decidedly multilateral when working with the international community since being elected. It’s not as if his leadership style has been one of a track record of arrogance (indeed, it’s been the exact opposite of arrogance, which is why much of the international community has had a more positive opinion of the United States in recent years.

    The unilateral action was undertaken here on behalf of not just US national security, but also on behalf of everyone threatened by narcissistic megalomaniacs, such as the one recently neutralized by US forces (that would include every pro-Western democratic ally, not just the United States).

    Well done!

    Just some thoughts from the pro-America crowd. ; )

    • Valkyrie says:

      Here’s an interesting analysis, by the way, for anyone interested in the “legal” aspects of the issue…


      One could argue that this is unprecedented, this case where a global superpower has intel, leading it to believe that an international terrorist leader is hiding out in a nuclear armed Pakistan, and then leading up to a successful raid (one chopper accident aside) and neutralization of said terror leader. But there’s no precedent under ever-evolving international law, so good luck “deciding” on this to properly satisfy everyone (opinions clearly differ). It’s simply quite unprecedented.

      I do have to add, though, that it’s baffling to hear people claiming that merely feeling that some type of justice was finally done is akin to further incitement. First off, AQ is already trying to kill us here in the US and abroad. Heaven forbid we might make them angry, as they might stop plotting to kill us for a minute and just get really really enraged…and…I don’t know…maybe even go so far as to try to plot to kill us (like they were just doing before). I get the part about not occupying every land AQ cells hide out in, thus creating a cycle where new recruits freak out about the thought of foreign occupiers, but I do not see how US freedom of expression over here is going to make much difference to those already plotting harm. It’s sort of an absurd logic, much like arguing that you shouldn’t run horror films, because some schizo might come out of the woodwork and show up somewhere to act out some scene the individual saw (based on mere make believe). We curb our freedoms enough as a result of these hooligans (allowing the TSA to crawl into everything at the airport, the NSA into our emails, etc.), let alone not being allowed expression in the public square, too?

      Many Americans merely felt a sense of moral justice, the legal issue of this being extrajudicial, as in not in any court, aside. The swell of joy and patriotism probably occurred because a very very long hunt was finally successful. Of course people reacted; it’s taken 10 years! And the US has intel galore, too! People celebrated for many different reasons, so lumping all the celebrations together as “obscene” rather limits the true scope of differing phenomenological experiences (I do believe it was once pointed out that the Taliban fighters joined for differing reasons, so I will use that same argument here and point out that not everyone who expressed emotion that Sunday night did it for precisely the same reasons, and it is therefore highly simplistic to paint everyone with the same brush).

      One person’s obscenity is another person’s sense of patriotism and relief.

    • M.A.G says:

      The US has given so much money to Pakistan that I think we’ve basically already bought the right to take unilateral action in a nation clearly unable to police itself and locate international terrorists hiding in its midst.

      I’m sorry but I find this kind of sentiment quite frightening. Surely, this issue has gone beyond one man. Yes, he was the figurehead but not the be all and end all.

      So under the guise of foreign aid, one sovereign nation has the right to take action in another sovereign nation? I think that’s a very dangerous precedent…however, I guess for the US, not new.

      • Valkyrie says:

        I’m sorry but I find this kind of sentiment quite frightening.

        So under the guise of foreign aid, one sovereign nation has the right to take action in another sovereign nation? I think that’s a very dangerous precedent…

        The opinion about the amount of foreign aid was more of a personal opinion (not a policy opinion, although I should have clarified that). However, it should not seem frightening to any nation serious about combating terror.

        The United States rarely thinks it may need to invade Britain or France to root out terrorists, because those nations are capable of (and willing to) fight terror. The sense of moral clarity among allies means such activity would not be likely in those nations.

        Pakistan was unique due to the level of distrust, and because while intel was not 100% spot on that the tall man spotted walking around by nearby spooks was, indeed, Bin Laden, it was apparently significant enough that President Obama took the action, nonetheless. The method avoided mass civilian casualties, as might have occurred had the US just sent in bombers to hit the entire compound. Instead, it was more like using a scalpel to go after a tumor, rather than just nuking someone with radiation to root out bad cells (if I may use a medical analogy).

        Properly, a multilateral effort to go in together with allies might be more appropriate in such situations, but it would be difficult to see the raid succeeding had we gone to the United Nations and openly proclaimed that we had intel and really needed to go into Pakistan without tipping them off. Again, if it turned out they were harboring an international terrorist, why wasn’t he turned over to be tried by the civilized world?

        Finally, I found this over at a law blog called The Volokh Conspiracy…


        You can’t, or you won’t. What does the victim of the terrorist you are knowingly/unknowingly harboring do to ensure a surprise success of a raid, rather than allow the man to potentially be shuttled away by sympathizers within Pakistan?

        Anyone have a better idea what could have been done and still have it turn out the way it did? OK, I know the killing issue bothered some, while others thought it acceptable, but in terms of just physically getting to him in Pakistan, what else would have worked? Anything?

  7. souravb says:

    Sadly, the best material to be used as a “recruitment tool” was the reaction from the media. Watching Geraldo Rivera on Fox announcing the news was an embarrassment to American decorum. Though many other networks maintained professionalism, it was reactions from immature political elites that undoubtedly encouraged and justified the masses taking to the streets to celebrate the way they did. I applaud, Obama, though for his composure. In his public addresses regarding the death, he has never smiled nor openly expressed the childish glee that others have. Let’s hope we don’t see the death be used as a campaign tool in 2012. If we do, then we might as well tell Al-Qaeda to recruit all they’d like.

    • Durkheim says:

      souravb – I must agree. And these videos are not just on Fox news but across Youtube and other media websites (which is more accessible worldwide). They say youth were rallying in the streets because they no longer have to worry about the draft. A draft is just as likely now as it was prior to Osama’s death. I can just see the videos of foolish young Americans dancing and cheering in the streets being used as a major propaganda tool for Al-Qaeda…so sad.

      • Valkyrie says:

        RE: “I can just see the videos of foolish young Americans dancing and cheering in the streets being used as a major propaganda tool for Al-Qaeda…so sad.

        Had young Americans not danced in the streets, Al-Q would’ve doctored video from 4th of July celebrations here in the USA (celebrations likely appearing on video, and thus accessible worldwide) to use a recruitment tools. They would lie and run their own psyops methods to recruit.

        I’m sorry, but you guys make NO sense at all. It’s entirely appropriate for top officials to maintain a sense of decorum and seriousness in these affairs, but those top officials run a still largely FREE America.

        That means freedom for everyone else to feel joy in the public square if they damn well please.

        To all who actually believe in freedom of expression, may you all have a fabulous 4th of July this year, even though Independence Day history was related to independence from Britain. All the same, the world is free from a top leader of oppression and mass murder. Others will fill the vacuum, sure, but this marks a turning point for the United States, as the intel gathered was reported to be quite substantial (no doubt that, too, is what so many were cheering over).

        And if anyone wants to join me, I’ll be watching the fireworks at Oak Brook this year. It’s a fabulous show they put on every year, with a huge finale at the very end (the best of the fireworks display).

        Stop being so down on the US you lefties!

      • M.A.G says:

        It’s funny though. A friend of mine just got back to Paris from Washington D.C. and she told me that the youth in the street were university students but a lot of it had more to do with the fact that it was exam period at the time so to take a break a lot of kids went out. So propaganda on both sides.

  8. Durkheim says:

    I’ll respond to the rest of the comments later. But in response to M.A.G.:
    “It’s funny though. A friend of mine just got back to Paris from Washington D.C. and she told me that the youth in the street were university students but a lot of it had more to do with the fact that it was exam period at the time so to take a break a lot of kids went out. ” I went to University in the heart of DC (GWU) for a few semesters and not once did I see kids celebrating in the streets. Yes, I witnessed them become inebriated and make a fool of themselves but never congregating in masses in front of the White House shouting “USA.” And the commentary from some of these COLLEGE educated students is just offensive considering the money their parents are paying for them to attend these schools. One would hope these young adults would think twice prior to acting….are their reaction due to a not yet fully matured prefrontal cortex or were they just socialized into ignorance?

    • M.A.G says:

      Definitely. I totally agree with you. I was just surprised by what my friend said in terms of the fact that there may have been apathy/ignorance to the issue at hand and pretty much mob mentality in terms of celebration.

      I guess as an outsider of the US (even though my home country is supposed to be part of the coalition) it’s hard to understand the “winner/number 1” mentality that can be prevalent over there.

      • Durkheim says:

        M.A.G. – I really hope you continue posting on Afghanopoly. I would love to hear a diversity of opinions in addition to us in the U.S. (not that the American commentary is invalid…I just think it is beneficial and enlightening to hear from a variety of perspectives). From the little I have read in terms of your posts I take it you are from France?
        The mob mentality, I think, has to do with the strong nationalistic tendencies of Americans. American children are essentially socialized with the “us versus them” mentality. Looking back, I can pinpoint a number of biases in my education (particularly history/social studies) that would lead vulnerable youngsters into such a dichotomous ideology (which is a flaw characterized by most if not all nations). It all begins with education.
        P.S. If I came off a bit harsh before it was not intentional 🙂

      • Durkheim says:

        I apologize for the poor grammar on my part. It has never been my strong suit.

    • Valkyrie says:

      Are you guys speaking primarily of the university students that Sunday night? Because I, being into psych, and not just poli-sci (you really need to know both to fully grasp poli-sci, actually, as it’s quite interdisciplinary in nature, dealing with social systems, obviously), tended to channel flip, and so I saw the scene in New York, too, not just outside the White House.

      Although having a fully matured “prefrontal cortex” by now, I have to say that waving flags and shouting “USA” didn’t seem nationalistic or obscene in light of the long hunt for the world’s most notorious mass murderer being sidelined during the diversion into Iraq. I saw a lot of people who probably thought President Obama made one of the most harrowing and difficult judgement calls of his entire presidency, and determined that he did the right thing in the end.

      I guess my prefrontal cortex just sort of generated multiple phenomenological possibilities. Then again, perhaps you see what you want to see? Perhaps there were some beer-guzzling drunks who turned out for any excuse to par-tay on a Sunday night, even without giving much thought to the magnitude and significance of the whole thing, but I’m sure not all were uneducated; many were college students, so it’s difficult to argue that they’ve not been all that well educated.

      Also, academia tends to be really really critical of the US, especially in liberal arts departments. Survey after survey shows the political participation of many liberal arts/humanities professors tends towards the left (I’m politically Independent, btw).

      It is actually quite amazing that, despite their liberal professors, many of those young college students out there celebrating still love their country so much (or at least the current leadership, perhaps). LOL

  9. M.A.G says:

    Durkheim: I’m actually from Australia but currently studying in France.

    We were discussing the issue of how the education system in the US really strongly pushes your history and civic pride (for lack of a better term) into you as students. That’s very interesting to me, as in Australia that definitely doesn’t happen.

    Even now, the forces we have in Afghanistan (I think they’re currently mainly in the Uruzgan province) are more “get the job done” than “win”.

    (This documentary really highlights how the Australian army approaches the situation: http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2007/s1964845.htm )

    I guess the thing is that because the goal that was stated for going into Afghanistan in the first place is multi-tiered (and perhaps not above board); the “victory” of bin Laden is something to be celebrated.

    • Durkheim says:

      Thank you so much for the link. I did read it over and agree with the Australian agenda to a certain extent. First, I want to say that I have done no research whatsoever on the stance of the Australian government in terms of Afghanistan. With that said, is there a general consensus regarding bin Laden’s death among Australians? What is the general viewpoint of American and British combat forces overseas? It sounds like you (Australians) are actually following through with COIN…it’s weird to say that considering the actions on behalf of combatants whose behavior reflected quite the opposite of a COIN mission (not in terms of Osama but the general operations that have unfolded in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan). In the end, what I want to know – is the Australian viewpoint too idealistic? Is it “right” to invade a country for over 20 years to implant one’s own agenda into an alien nation? If the US and other imperial nations had not aggravated various social relations in the Middle East would terrorism be the threat that it is today? Sorry to bombard you with all the questions. Just interested in root causes.

      • M.A.G says:

        The general consensus in Australia (when I was still there) was that it’s an unnecessary deployment with a lot of questioning of why we are there, what are the real goals etc. There is also the issue of our government blindly following the US in whatever is asked – there is resentment over these issues for the general public. However, we only have about 1500 remaining there and who with ISAF in Uruzgan.

        In terms of bin Laden, our Prime Minister was slightly reprimanded in the media for having “welcomed” the death. The general public was not really affected one way or the other. Australians, I hate to say, are generally quite apathetic to these types of events.

        I don’t think it’s idealistic per se but it works for them. I think the defence force in Australia is quite reactive and adaptive when in combat in terms of adopting new strategies.

        I think the problem is that it’s hard to compare US/Australia strategies because we’re not involved in the same capacity. You are the main force there. I could possibly compare it to East Timor when Australia intervened on behalf of the Timorese against Indonesia. However, the Australian public and media were blatantly aware that the only reason we did do that was to control the immense gas reserves that are in the Timorese sea. One thing is though, East Timor was able to govern itself as soon as the combat was over – without much interference from the Australian government.

        In answer to your other questions, No i don’t think it’s right to invade any country but this is nothing new – I guess the more important question is when is it “right” to leave?

        p.s. sorry my thoughts are all disjointed – classes/assignments killing my brain.

  10. It has been very interesting to read through the comments on this post about the legality of the actions of the US team that “took out” UBL and the morality of the the consequent celebrations on the streets of major US cities. Rather than follow up on that thread, I would like to ask all of you about another point that Romain raised in his post, namely the difference between good ideas in theory, and good ideas in practice.

    I am intrigued by the difference between what Obama said in the context of water-boarding before he was elected, and his apparent stance regarding “means vs end debate” after more than two years of presidency. I understand how sometimes what may appear to be true in theory, does not necessarily hold in practice, but I am amazed that even an intellectual, almost academic President like Barack Obama, felt that he had to resort to a method like assassination to achieve the goal of protecting the United States from terror attacks. (Of course there are a number of other things that he promised to do as president but he hasn’t done, like closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison.)

    I believe Obama was right that day. The shortcut he and previous administrations have taken with targeted killings will certainly prove rewarding in the opinion polls, but it is likely to undermine the US image over the world. This, and the obscene scenes of celebrations that we have witnessed on Sunday night, will certainly be used as a “recruitment tool” by terrorist networks, which have at least managed one thing: bring the US down to their level. Overtime, it will have consequences.

    I might agree with what Romain has said above, but I wonder how we know that. Clearly Obama felt the same before he embarked on this mission, but perhaps what he learnt at the helm of things changed his opinion. Does he know something more than we do? Is there more to the change in opinion than just an eye at the next presidential elections (I hope so, even though the cynic in me might disagree)? What was it about the situation (in practice) that changed his repertoire of tactics (from the initial theoretical set)?

    This topic is germane to us as an academic community as well (whether we see ourselves as leftists or political centrists) as the relevance of our insights, critiques, debates and policy recommendations is only going to maintained in the long run if the theoretical concepts promulgated by academics in print and speech, also hold water when held in the harsh light of real wars, real negotiations and real trade-offs.

    • Valkyrie says:

      Does he (Obama) know something more than we do?

      I think he knows that Pakistan is incompetent to fully secure those nukes, perhaps?


      Also, I strongly suspect they were also in it for the intel prize, not just to capture or neutralize Bin Laden.

      While Pakistan is continually worried about India as a mortal threat, they are at risk of chaos forming from within if they cannot control the outlaw brats operating within.

      Again, they have nukes and yet could not tell an international terrorist was hiding out so close to a military-related area? This is quite frightening.

      India should be the least of their worries.

      • I would argue that the inability of Pakistan to handle the nukes is pretty widely assumed, even outside of the US executive, don’t you think? That could not be a big reason for erstwhile-idealistic Obama choosing expedience over rectitude.

        Also, I am not sure what you mean by they are after intel prize [in killing bin Laden]?

  11. Durkheim says:

    I know this isn’t exactly relevant but I came across this quote during my studies (1.5 weeks and the degree is all mine!). Just thought it was interesting since it highlights somewhat of a “rational” side of Osama in that his ideology behind his acts of hatred is exposed to some degree. “God knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers, but after the situation became unbearable—and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon—I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were that of 1982 and the events that followed—when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the U.S. Sixth Fleet. As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me punish the unjust the same way: to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women.” – Osama Bin Laden.
    And we must all keep in mind the following:
    “While nothing is easier than to denounce the evil-doer, nothing is more difficult than to understand him.” – Dosteyevsky

    • Durkheim says:

      And I would like to emphasize that in no way do I endorse Osama’s philosophy. I just think it is important to look at both sides of the story and the root cause(s) that led us to the predicament that we are in.

    • Valkyrie says:

      I fear that’s propaganda from Osama, to get more in the Middle East to turn on the West, by playing to hatred of Israel over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

      Gee, with all those millions and millions of dollars the spoiled and bored man had at his fingertips, you’d think he could do something for the Palestinians, directly, rather than just stir up all kinds of trouble.

      Here’s an interesting piece from TIME, btw, on him being relatively “sane,” rather than entirely delusional (unless, of course, you’re like me and think that a penchant towards narcissistic megalomania is, indeed, a pathology of sorts).


      The man was an excellent propagandist. Sometimes, that’s as deep as one needs to read into such personalities. Nothing more, and nothing less.

      He’s been properly fed to the sharks now, despite all the hand-wringing in Europe about the entire operation. And no, this doesn’t ever bring the US down to “their” level; we’re not terrorists (that’s why we court martial members of the armed forces that do dishonorable things, whereas Bin Laden encouraged as much dishonor as possible, up to and including self-annihilation in the process of harming others).

      Hope those sharks didn’t get indigestion, or anything…

      Maybe even they turned their noses away at the creep!

      • Valkyrie says:

        Oh, and regarding the “rubbish” about the US/Israel/Lebanon angle…


        I’m not a psych major, but sometimes, I wonder if trusting people tend to want to see that there’s a logic behind bad actors, as if one thinks they can have some type of control over the world (to control anxiety, perhaps?) by trying to analyze it to come up with a “root cause,” as if this will help society learn what to do to prevent such situations in the future?

        Hopefully, the rumblings of an “Enlightenment” of sorts in the Arab world will spur some march towards modernity, thus reducing the hold that demagogues can place on psyches. Wise and educated people may, indeed, believe in a higher power (it’s a human universal), but they should be educated enough in critical thinking ability to not to get conned and duped into carrying out terrorist activities on this scale.

        To anyone who happens upon the blog and wonders about some of the views they (may?) have heard from some of the more far left profs, especially here in the United States, please always think long and hard about some of the blame-the-US-first views that sometimes get spewed. It’s fine to be politically and psychologically introspective, to be a healthy nation, but honestly, some of the views espoused out there are just plain crazy. There’s no logic to back some of the stuff up.

        Sometimes, wise people doubt they are ever wrong, just because they hold a doctorate. It is harder to doubt yourself (until perhaps an academic peer rips apart a paper or theory, of course) when your IQ is above and beyond the average in society, but at the same time, not everyone with a high IQ is correct about all things.

        Arthur Butz, an engineering professor at Northwestern, thinks the Holocaust was a mere “myth” (he’s obviously incorrect).

        Most profs are respectable, even when you disagree with them, but some of the stuff that’s out there in the press about far left academic views of the Bin Laden operation are just waaaaay off.

        If you doubt something, trust your intuition and go do some independent research.

        May this year’s Class of 2011 make it through leftist academia without completely wanting to deconstruct, over-criticize and over-blame their beloved home country just because (duh!) sometimes even the superpower has made mistakes.

        It’s still a better place than, say, living under the Taliban. We are NOT morally equivalent to oppressive thugs just because of tactical mistakes made, or because we seem to side with a particular US ally more on an issue, or because Noam Chomsky says we’re awful.

  12. Afghanopoly says:

    I agree with E.E. : powerful decision makers such as the President of the United States face difficult dilemmas on a daily basis. They make hard decisions and it is easy for us to criticize them. It is still our right (and duty?), even if we know that they were probably very difficult to make.

    That being said, I must admit that I share M.A.G.’s difficulty to understand the “winner/number 1 mentality” in the US. It is very unfortunate that criticizing the US administration is often perceived as anti-Americanism. It contributes to simplifying and emotionalizing the debate. The same mechanism already led to poorly designed foreign policies (we all remember GWB “either with us or against us”).

    Finally, to answer Valkyrie’s comment on Pakistan: I do not believe that killing UBL actually participates in stabilizing Pakistan in any way. Nor do I believe that his assassination has anything to do with the risk of seeing the Pakistani government losing control of its nuclear arsenal.

  13. Valkyrie says:

    Apologies for not answering EE sooner, but I’ve been busy with my constitutional law class finals.

    EE asked what was meant about the intel prize, so I shall just clarify that I think the mission was not just to get Bin Laden, but was also about grabbing as much intel as they could get during the process, because while they didn’t positively know 100% for sure if it was, indeed, Bin Laden (until they went in), they did know that his courier was going in and out of the compound (they had been watching, as reports have stated). I didn’t mean to state that this was linked to the actual decision to neutralize the world’s biggest terror menace, as I think that’s what may have been inferred.

    Debating the justification of the actual killing, though, will just go on and on, so I leave that to the other bloggers if they want to debate it. I know that I am pretty much convinced that the US and Europe largely just have entirely different opinions on the issue and are not in agreement, so that’s just the way it is.

    I will say that some of the more bizarre commentary coming from some academics (Chomsky!), even here in the US, is disappointing. Bin Laden was influenced by a radical teacher of his, so on that note, I think maybe the same logic applies about using speech as incitement. Maybe people should take caution to note that some of the speech coming from the far left–people so far on the fringes that they’re not even within the left-leaning Democratic Party anymore–could be negatively influencing the next John Walker Lindh, perhaps? Nonetheless, they should certainly not be censored (censured, perhaps, but not censored), as it’s still better to know how people think (better they be open than hiding and unobtrusive, I suppose).

    On a more humorous note (since wrapping up a con-law class), if any students at public institutions here in the US ever feel the need to appeal a grade, they should cite the United States constitution in arguing that they deserve a more pleasing mark. Apparently, just because something is not expressly mentioned in the constitution, this does not mean that a right does not exist. It may, in fact, be found emanating from penumbras!

    Thus, US public-institution students should point to the “pursuit of happiness” clause and demand their more satisfactory marks (wink wink). I’m kidding, of course, but it’s just amazing how malleable that document is in the hands of lawyers. They find the most interesting things in there, even when not explicitly spelled out!

    Come to think of it, the Northwestern handbook grants students the right“to speak freely, and to exercise the civil rights to which any citizen of the United States is entitled, as long as the student does not claim to represent the institution.”

    See? Northwestern students, too, might also be able to argue that the pursuit of happiness clause applies at the private institution, too! (I know, it’s a stretch, but I’m just kidding anyways).

    Happy Graduation to all who are finished at NU!

    • Valkyrie says:

      By the way, I forgot to cite a source in the above posting.

      The source for the handbook quote came from here:


      I’m particularly dismayed by any suggestions that people censor themselves, or for others to try to shut them up, hence a very strong personal opinion about anyone complaining about the loud and proud Americans chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

      We did “win.” Someone tried to demoralize us by killing many of us, and in the end, we got at least the top mastermind, even if it does not really end the overall war on terror (which is ongoing, because it’s like dealing with the mob, they’re always going to be operating in the shadows, even if not legitimate in mainstream society).

      Patriotism and pride are not necessarily the first step down a slippery slope leading towards nationalism. Most Americans know the difference.

  14. Jackal says:

    I know I’m late to the party but way to go Valkyrie!!!

    • Valkyrie says:

      Hey, nice of you to join again!

      4 more summer classes, and I am officially DONE with my poli-sci degree!
      So, just keep at it; it’ll be over before ya know it, and then you, too, will be done as well. Whoo hoo!

      By the way, congrats to the top blogger for getting approval to teach the course next year (glanced at the course listings for Fall, just to see what’s being offered, even though I’m done with my undergrad studies). No doubt, that class will have a robust debate as well!

      Finally, there’s a good piece on the Afghanistan draw down (whatever your opinions may be, whether for or against it, or perhaps by now just so utterly befuddled, you’ve no idea what to think!) by one Leslie Gelb. Remember the Biden-Gelb “Plan for Iraq” from the past? Same guy.


      Gee, just think…now with some of the troops coming home, there will even more people looking for jobs in this economy (gulp). : )

      • Valkyrie says:

        Just to add…

        Regarding the reports that Bin Laden felt a need to remake the image of his terror outfit by possibly re-branding with a new name?

        You know you are very very lame when even your (late) terrorist leader thinks you have a PR problem!

        Again. We did “win” something, there, too. Even he thought so!

  15. Free Slides says:

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    Free slides

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