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Monday, May 2, 2011

Why the Death of bin Laden means Something....and Nothing

    No doubt there will be pundits and experts caught up in patriotic fervor who will say the death of Osama bin Laden is a critical turning point. I would agree, if it were 2006 or earlier.  Now, his death is simply just as symbolic as was his life.The death means more to the US than UBL's supporters, just as his life was a symbol to his supporters of him being "untouchable." Well, the US just painted "touchable"with his blood in the information battle-space
    Now a symbol in this case is more like a rich/successful board member: he has cachet, brings some juice to the table, but doesn't really do anything and is not likely in control. His death will be lionized, morale will be deflated in some circles and jihad inspiration will be found in others. But losing a board member won't affect the "company" because the strategy, coordination, direction, decision making and the getting-it-done was done by other more active organization members, namely al-Zawahiri (think CEO). Now, al-Zawahiri's death would be cause for rejoicing as it would cause AQ great damage that would take years to recover from. Now that the symbol is dead, let's put our focus on the real AQ leader (s).
     Explaining my "if it were 2006" comment. With a small force commitment, before the resurgence of the Taliban and a change of our role and mission to include nation building, it would have been easy to declare "mission accomplished" and pull out. But we're fighting a different war now, much like Iraq in 2007 when GEN Petraeus was testifying to Congress. Neither war started out as a counter-insurgent effort with the intent to prop up a fragile democratic-ish government to achieve national security goals of stability in their respective regions. But that's what they became, and we have an obligation to see that through regardless of the initial motivation to get involved in either country. When are we leaving? No time soon, no matter how many UBLs, al-Zawahiris or al-Libis we take out.
       Now, an influencer's perspective-was the timing coincidental or purposely coinciding with the Taliban's self-proclaimed country-wide "Tet." If yes, then brilliant strategic thinking. If this occurred just one week earlier, it could have provided Taliban's spring offensive with a rally of support, inspiration, and recruits. But in the midst of the fizzling spring offensive, it can likely have a jarring effect on the morale of the foot soldiers needed to carry out efforts. Those same individuals/groupings also have the most vulnerable attachment to the Taliban as their tenuous commitment is rooted in many factors other than ideology. So in terms of event AND timing, we might see a turning point in the fight in Afghanistan, but al-Qaeda's crippling watershed moment has yet to occur.
     In any event, AQ just experienced the "Chicago Way," and that watershed moment may soon be within our reach.


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