USIP’s Special Adviser, Muslim World Initiative Steve Heydemann; Senior Program Officer Col. Paul Hughes; Military Fellow Col. John Maraia; and South Asia Adviser Moeed Yusuf react to Osama bin Laden's death.

May 2, 2011

BIN LADEN REIGN ENDS AS ARAB SPRING BLOSSOMS – USIP’s Steve Heydemann notes that the Arab Spring has created an opening for Arabs to express their views in a new way, and that the death of Bin Laden may test that newfound voice. Bin Laden was killed by U.S. Special Forces in a large compound outside Islamabad, Pakistan on Sunday. “Even if you get negative reactions from some sectors in the Arab world, I would hope that the political environment is such that those sentiments won’t automatically feed into extremist movements,” Heydemann says.

LETHAL FORCE JUSTIFIED – There will be a mixed reaction from different quarters about what will be seen as a unilateral action by the U.S. Whether the ends will justify the means remains unclear. But most, at least for now, will see the U.S. action as positive. “This is perhaps one of the clearest cases in which the use of force has to be seen as legitimate and justified and moral,” Heydemann says. “I believe there will be counter claims on each of those three issues, but there’s not going to be a lot of sympathy for that viewpoint,” he says.

HEYDEMANN’S BOTTOM LINE – The euphoria over bin Laden’s killing will be short lived, Heydemann asserts, and at the end of the day “will not disrupt the underlying patterns of the longer-term conflict between the U.S. and extremist, Islamist organizations.”

A GAME CHANGER? – USIP’s Paul Hughes says the death of bin Laden “could be a game changer for the U.S. strategy in Central/South Asia,” but, he said, it’s too early to say just how. Hughes, a retired Army colonel who is himself a survivor of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, said he is personally gratified that Osama is dead, but it doesn’t mean terrorism is dead, too. “The nature of al-Qaida (AQ) was to be a diffuse network whose various affiliates worked independently of AQ-Central,” Hughes says of al-Qaida, meaning there is still command-and-control even without the nominal head of al-Qaida. Still, the hit will have an impact. “I’ll bet other AQ leaders around the world are scurrying around like rats right now trying to change their modes of operations.”

PEACE IMPACT? – “This may alter how leaders in the region view the U.S. and might make them more cooperative in seeking regional stabilization arrangements,” Hughes said.

AMAZING THINGS – Hughes said the fact that the U.S. could effectively penetrate bin Laden’s compound signifies how the U.S. “can still do amazing things when it wants someone.”

Echoing that sentiment, USIP’S military fellow, John Maraia, says “killing the acknowledged leader of al-Qaida is a critical step in this war of ideas and images; it clearly sends the message to Bin Laden’s followers that America’s pursuit is relentless and that even hiding in a well-appointed compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan is no guarantee of safety.” | Read more in "The Impact of Osama bin Laden's Death on al-Qaida"

THE PAKISTANI REACTION – USIP’s Moeed Yusuf suggests that the success of the operation has probably embarrassed many within Pakistan’s strategic community. Yusuf says “the Pakistanis were not on board and were only informed after the fact. While it is too early to tell, this revelation will raise lot of questions in Pakistan; and perhaps even between Pakistan and the U.S.” | Read more in "Osama bin Laden's Death in Pakistan"

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