Thousands of Afghan civilian casualties – too many for any body or organization to properly count – later.
Osama bin Laden is dead, says the President. It’s been almost ten years since the September 11th attacks, and since the world’s largest manhunt was launched for the man responsible. In those ten years, the world has changed so much that it’s almost unrecognizable.
Ten years ago, bin Laden’s death might have actually struck a body blow at the terrorist infrastructure. Today, it will probably make little more than a dent. After all, they’ve had ten years to reorganize and restructure, to recruit and train. Ten years during which Osama was little more than a figurehead, and the network has decentralized. Ten years for other international terror groups to “step up” and grow up.
(Oh, and ten years for the US to invade Iraq, for there to be civil war – and now reconciliation – in the Palestinian territories, for governments to change hands in western nations and for massive rounds of civilian unrest and protest across the middle east. A lot can happen in ten years.)
At best, this announcement will give Obama a temporary bump in the polls as he kicks off his 2012 re-election campaign. At worst, it will make bin Laden into a martyr among his followers and trigger additional attacks. In all likelihood, it will make very little practical difference.
It does feel like the end of an era, in a way.