The recent death of Osama Bin Laden, cornered in a Pakistani “compound” built to protect the Al Qeada mastermind, inspired reactions ranging from joy to introspection to the New York Daily News headline “Rot in Hell!” Richard Mahoney, professor of peace studies at the Baker Institute, talks about the possible outcomes to the Bin Laden killing.
Q: Has Bin Laden’s death dealt a crucial blow to the war on terror?
A: That’s hard to say. He was basically cut off from the world, with no Internet or media so he wasn’t as influential (in recent years). I think his death was basically a symbolic hit, rather than an operational hit in the war on terror.
Q: In killing Osama Bin Laden, do we run the risk of making him a martyr?
A: There is that danger. The other danger is that this success in getting rid of Bin Laden sort of covers up the fact that we have been fighting a war on terror that was poorly defined and justified the militarization that put us in two wars.
Q: In sanctioning what amounts to a killing of Bin Laden, does the U.S. run the risk of alientating other world allies?
A: One of the questions we should be asking ourselves after the killing of Bin Laden and the bombing death of Saif al-Arab, Moammar Gaddafi’s son, is “Is this the right way to go about these things?” I recall the story of John F. Kennedy, when given some plans to kill Fidel Castro, and he said “If we get into this kind of thing we’ll all be targets.”
Q: How has Barack Obama increased his viability for re-election as a result of this action?
A: It certainly eliminates his vulnerability on the national security questions he’s been hammered with.
Q: How does the killing affect our foreign policy?
A: The problem with the success of a killing is that it undermines the need for a debate on whether this kind of thing should be done at all without being supported by our allies, our legislators and the American people. We should have that debate, but the Bin Laden killing will (push that effort offstage).
~John Wall, director of media relations