Osama bin Laden is dead because justice demanded he die. For 10 years, the terror master was the man who got away with it. Bin Laden perpetrated the most destructive and deadly act of terrorism on U.S. soil and lived to tell the tale. Because of this, he was an inspiration to any jihadist fanatic who wanted to follow in his violent footsteps. It didn't matter whether bin Laden had any input into subsequent al Qaeda operations, whether he was in charge, advising or simply relaxing while other, younger men ran the organization for him. Because of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he was Public Enemy No. 1 until his demise.
Over the years, various theories had been advanced why killing bin Laden might not be such a good idea. Steve Simon of the RAND Corporation - the Clinton-era head of the Transnational Threat Office of the National Security Council - said, "Killed, he will be a martyr, maybe even more powerful." Throughout history, however, there are no iniquitous figures who have risen to become such mighty martyrs. Those who commit monstrous evils are always more dangerous when alive. When dead, they slip quickly from view, especially when buried at sea.
Former CIA official A. B. "Buzzy" Krongard argued years ago that bin Laden's death could generate a power struggle among his subordinates manifested in a wave of attacks against American interests. But when radicals struggle for power, they typically focus violence on each other. Even now, the al Qaeda organization could be in the process of consuming itself. Al Qaeda leaders also may be seeking out suspected traitors within the organization, believing America could not have taken down the supreme leader without some kind of inside information. This is a beneficial form of fratricide that should by all means be encouraged.
The paranoiac instincts of terror leaders are well developed, and the best way to attack their systems is through sowing doubts about their members. We have no idea whether the CIA has a mole inside al Qaeda, but the good news is they don't know either and will act accordingly.
Bin Laden was the epitome of what terrorism scholars call the super-empowered individual. For years, he was sought after by the greatest power in the world and evaded detection at every turn. His followers mounted periodic destructive attacks, and he taunted the United States on audio and video tapes. Every statement from bin Laden would become front-page news, the kind of media access that no terror leader has ever enjoyed over such a sustained period of time. In his egomaniacal worldview, this attention was all evidence that things were as they should be. He saw himself as a historic figure, the future uniter of the Muslim world, the caliph in waiting, the manifest savior of Islam.
On Sunday, in a room in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, at the hands of U.S. Special Operations Forces, Osama bin Laden learned that he was not the messiah. In his final terror-filled moments, he had to face the knowledge that there was no future caliphate, that he was not invisible to his enemies, that all he had worked for, planned for and killed for was crumbling to dust. Bin Laden lived for violence, and he died violently. Justice, long awaited, graced the world.
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