Killing bin Laden: A Psychological Boost for Self-Doubting Americans


bin laden.jpgPolitico‘s Josh Gerstein and I had a quick chat about the implications of the successful operation by the Navy SEAL team that penetrated Pakistan’s territory and snuffed out one of the great terror masters of our time.
I have long believed that Osama bin Laden had become a symbolic phantom that both opponents of the US as well as US-supporting national security zealots would exploit for their own purposes. To some degree, those who resented America would hold out bin Laden as a hero that an impotent America had failed to vanquish — and those Pentagon-hugging national security zealots would wave bin Ladenism around to justify ever more expansion of America’s defense budgets and support the pile-up of wars abroad.
Bin Laden is now gone — and this may help correct both the view abroad that America is impotent and flailing; and may help those inside the US to engage in less over-compensation for their own self doubt.
Here were my thoughts as shared with Josh Gerstein:

. . .Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation, said killing bin Laden probably would have been more significant a few years ago in terms of his importance to Al Qaeda operations. Earlier this year, the Obama administration said the Yemen-based Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, which has fewer ties to the central Al Qaeda group, now poses the greatest terror threat.
However, Clemons said bin Laden’s death will help the U.S. at home and abroad in ways that go far beyond its impact on planning of terror plots.
“The real is question is the self-doubt many Americans felt about leadership in Washington and the impotence many around the world felt it reflected on the part of the U.S.,” Clemons said. “People don’t understand how incredibly important it is to demolish the brand of Osama bin Laden. He’s a pop culture figure, a rock star of transnational terrorism. To have that lurking out there unresolved would have permanently handicapped us psychologically.”

Hopefully a key lesson learned by the bin Laden hunt is how ineffective and counter-productive the deployment of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and private contractors has been when it came down to moving America’s interests forward. I supported the hunt for bin Laden, but not the nonsensical obsession that has now led to three wars, the death of hundreds of thousands, with no definitive conclusion to the broader challenge of transnational terrorism.
— Steve Clemons


5 comments on “Killing bin Laden: A Psychological Boost for Self-Doubting Americans

  1. Kathleen says:

    Steve “Killing bin Laden: A Psychological Boost for Self-Doubting Americans”
    Really? I have not for one moment felt like gloating (like the so called Christian Joe Scarborough who parades his alleged faith on his program) or dancing in the streets (like the frat type folks out on the streets as if they were at a Roman coliseum with their thumbs down) “kill him, kill him” In fact I find much of this sickening and know why many around the world fear and hate this nation.
    I am one of the folks who want the same justice and accountability for crimes against humanity committed by the “masterminds” of brutal and deadly 9/11 as the “masterminds” of the brutal and very deadly invasion of Iraq.
    Everyone keeps asking about Pakistan’s “sheltering” of Bin Laden. The Obama administration , our justice system and our Reps are “sheltering” Bush,Cheney,Wolfowitz,Condi “mushroom cloud” Rice, Feith etc, Tell me what the difference is? Oh yeah Bush and team are responsible for far more deaths, injuries and millions displaced.
    Is it too much to expect?
    At least this morning on Morning Joe, Scarborough did not try to repeat that Americans who have lost family members or lost limbs due to Afghanistan and Iraq can feel comfort now that OBL has been killed. How arrogant. And he again tied Iraq to 9/11.
    One great thing this morning is that Mika Brezinski while talking with Senator McKasgill brought up OBL’s death, Afghanistan and skillfully stopped right after she said AFghanistan and did not link 9/11 with the invasion of Iraq as Joe Scarborough, Maria Schaivo Campo and others who know better have done the last several days


  2. Kenneth D. Franks says:

    I believe your perspective is correct and agree with your comments on the “Last Word,” on M.S.N.B.C today.


  3. DakotabornKansan says:

    Osama bin Laden is dead, but our


  4. DonS says:

    (“Bin Laden is now gone — and this may help correct both the view abroad that America is impotent and flailing; and may help those inside the US to engage in less over-compensation for their own self doubt.”) (SC)
    Maybe so, but jingoism, flag waving, Muslim-hating plays so well in the hinterlands that it is equally possible, and I would argue more likely, that killing OBL will only bolster the these negative effects.
    Add to that the fact that preoccupation with offshore matters serves as a distraction from domestic problems, not to mention exacerbates domestic problems, and there is no need for Obama to take the kinder, gentler approach to foreign policy going forward. And killing OBL will only (relatively) immunize him from republican charges of soft on terrorism for so long as he keeps adopting and outdoing Bush’ obsession with the national security state.
    For example, old faithful liberal interventionist Hillary seems like she ain’t going to be dissuaded from the “stomp ’em” approach:


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