Bin Laden, No More
A National Review Online Symposium

From Michael Rubin:

Bin Laden is dead. Now, let's stop engaging terrorists and start killing them. Enough with the handwringing about whether we should be targeting Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi: He ordered the death of Americans and, for that, he deserves to die. It is a permanent stain on the United States both that PLO chairman Yasir Arafat died a natural death and that, rather than strike out at Gen. Qasim Sulaimani--who, as head of the Iranian Qods Force, directed the murder of Americans in Iraq--first President Bush and then President Obama sought to engage the Iranian regime. It is absolutely insane that while we are celebrating bin Laden's demise, the Obama White House is simultaneously figuring out how it might skirt U.S. law to fund a Palestinian Authority that includes Hamas.

As I wrote in National Review five years ago, there is nothing illegal about assassinating terror masters--whether they are fugitives like bin Laden or heads of state like Qaddafi. It's time that the United States stop acting like a befuddled has-been and start acting once again like a global leader. We must make terrorists understand that if they mess with us, they won't get diplomatic legitimacy; rather, they will simply sign their own death sentences.

From Frederick W. Kagan:

The killing of Osama bin Laden is an important achievement. He was the founder of the al-Qaeda brand and the symbol of its continued potency in the face of America's determined efforts to kill him. It does not, however, mark the end of the struggle against al-Qaeda itself, let alone the larger struggle against Islamism. The al-Qaeda cancer metastasized long ago throughout Pakistan, on the Arabian peninsula, and into Muslim Africa. Experts who study the organization have long described its decentralized nature and resilience. Previous successful attacks on al-Qaeda leaders have demonstrated that resilience repeatedly. One such success should give us special pause. U.S. forces found and killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, then head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, in June 2006. Many celebrated that moment as a potential turning point, and so it proved to be--but not in the way we had hoped. Abu Ayyub al-Masri replaced Zarqawi almost instantly and launched an even more skillful, ruthless, and devastating campaign of car bombing in Baghdad, which stoked the flames of sectarian conflict far beyond anything Zarqawi had been able to achieve.

Interestingly, al-Qaeda in Iraq is no longer capable of such attacks and has been increasingly marginalized as a threat to the Iraqi government and people and, even more so, to Americans. But we did not achieve that by catching al-Masri. Instead, together with our Iraqi partners, we eliminated the conditions that had allowed al-Qaeda in Iraq to flourish while continuing to attack the organization itself relentlessly.

The current moment of celebration is thus also a moment of great danger. Not only will all al-Qaeda groups--and al-Qaeda wannabes--seek revenge for bin Laden's death, but the U.S. and its partners around the world can delude themselves that the war is over. They can believe that we can stop fighting now; that we can pull out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and, indeed, the entire region.

But the war will not be over, because the remaining al-Qaeda leaders and their various franchisees around the world continue to seek our destruction and continue to have the means to do so. It would be pleasant indeed if we could end this conflict with one bullet, but, alas, that is not the case. This is a moment for sober celebration and even more sober reflection. Above all, it is a moment to rededicate ourselves to completing the process of defeating a horrific enemy.

From Marc A. Thiessen:

This morning, when I went out to get coffee and a paper after a late night celebrating the demise of Osama bin Laden, the lady behind the counter pointed to the front-page picture of the late al-Qaeda leader and said: "I guess the war is finally over." Millions of Americans are saying the same thing today. On Fox News, a Marine at Camp Pendleton said he was relieved at bin Laden's death because "we're all ready for this war to be over." And on CNN last night, Peter Bergen declared: "Killing bin Laden is the end of the War on Terror. We can just sort of announce that right now."

No, we can't. The temptation to see this as the culmination of a long struggle is understandable. It has been nearly ten years since the attacks of September 11, 2001. The War on Terror is the longest military struggle in our nation's history, and one that is unlike any our nation faced before. In the past, America's wars ended with a dramatic event--a surrender ceremony on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri, or Allied armies marching into Berlin. For many, bin Laden's death feels like that kind of event. It is not. Ayman Zawahiri will not respond to the killing of Osama bin Laden by packing it in and returning to his medical practice.

Nor will Adnan Shukrijumah--an American citizen who currently holds KSM's former position as al-Qaeda's operational commander--give up jihad and retire. Nor will Anwar al-Awlaki or the other leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula--who have twice nearly succeeded in blowing up planes over the United States--give up the fight and go quietly into the night. These terrorists will do everything in their power to avenge the death of their fallen leader. And they are convinced that the best way they can do so is by repeating the destruction he wreaked on America. They will seek to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in spectacular fashion. We had better be ready.

Vice President Cheney put it well this morning, when he declared: "Though bin Laden is dead, the war goes on. We must remain vigilant, especially now, and we must continue to support our men and women in uniform who are fighting on the front lines of this war every day."

So let us revel in a great military victory today. But those celebrating in Times Square and other parts of America today should remember that this is not V-J Day. As we dance in the streets, our enemies are regrouping and planning the next attack. Which means that tomorrow we need to get back to work and stop them.

From John Yoo:

The majority of the credit for the operation that killed Osama bin Laden goes to the Obama administration. But it is also a vindication of the Bush administration's terrorism policies and shows that success comes from continuing those policies, not rejecting them (as Obama has tried to do for the last two years). According to anonymous government sources quoted in the press today, it was the interrogation of al-Qaeda leaders that led to the identification of the courier, who led us to bin Laden's hiding place. Reports suggest that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed himself may have given up the identity of the courier.

Imagine what would have happened if the Obama administration had been running things back in 2002-2008. It would have given Miranda warnings and lawyers to KSM and other al-Qaeda leaders. There would have been no Gitmo, no military commissions--instead civilian trials on U.S. soil with all of the Bill of Rights benefits for terrorist defendants. There would have been no enhanced-interrogation program, no terrorist-surveillance program, and hence no intelligence mosaic that could have given us the information that produced this success. In the War on Terror, it is comparatively easy to pull the trigger--the truly hard task is to figure out where to aim. President Obama can take credit, rightfully, for the success today, but he owes it to the tough decisions taken by the Bush administration.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar, Frederick W. Kagan is a resident scholar and director of the Critical Threats Project, Marc A. Thiessen is a visiting fellow and John Yoo is a visiting scholar at AEI.

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About the Author





  • Michael Rubin is a former Pentagon official whose major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy. Rubin instructs senior military officers deploying to the Middle East and Afghanistan on regional politics, and teaches classes regarding Iran, terrorism, and Arab politics on board deploying U.S. aircraft carriers. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen, both pre- and post-war Iraq, and spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. His newest book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engagement examines a half century of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups.

    Follow Michael Rubin on Twitter.

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Frederick W.


Marc A.
  • A member of the White House senior staff under President George W. Bush, Marc A. Thiessen served as chief speechwriter to the president and to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Prior to joining the Bush administration, Thiessen spent more than six years as spokesman and senior policy adviser to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). He is a weekly columnist for the Washington Post, and his articles can be found in many major publications. His book on the Central Intelligence Agency's interrogation program, Courting Disaster (Regnery Press, 2010), is a New York Times bestseller. At AEI, Thiessen writes about U.S. foreign and defense policy issues for The American and the Enterprise Blog. He appears every Sunday on Fox News Channel's "Fox and Friends" and makes frequent appearances on other TV and talk radio programs.

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    Name: Justin Lang
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