Since the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, al Qaeda has spawned affiliated groups in the Middle East and North Africa and inspired attacks by so-called home-grown militants in Europe and the United States.
But White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said bin Laden's death was the latest in a series of U.S. operations that have delivered "severe body blows" to al Qaeda's central network in Pakistan and Afghanistan over the past year.
"We're going to try to take advantage of this opportunity we have now with the death of al Qaeda's leader, bin Laden, to ensure that we're able to destroy that organization," Brennan told NBC's Today show. "We're determined to do so and we believe we can."
It's not like this is unexpected. Once the "Global War On Terror" became extant, we all knew this was not going to just be Afghanistan, Iraq, two and done. Sadly, it seems that no matter what, we'll be fighting this war indefinitely. Oceania will no longer be our enemy, East Asia will. Or the other way around. Or not. Maybe. Maybe not.
It is interesting that the two nations most responsible for the terrible attacks on September 11 2001, Pakistan (whose ISI likely funneled money to the attackers and which certainly knew it was harboring bin Laden) and the Sauds (15 of the 19 hijackers, yadayadayada), remained unpunished and indeed, rewarded for their assistance in these attacks, however indirect it may have been.
So likely, our further development of this war on terror will involve at least these two nations, probably Yemen as well as any number of UAE states which seem to provide either funding or havens for Al Qaeda.
And while I can applaud dismantling that which we effectively created in Al Qaeda, I can't help but wonder what pops up in its place. Right now, there doesn't seem to be an organization capable of picking up the slack, employing the resources and manpower that Al Qaeda managed to harness, albeit briefly.
That doesn't mean we're safe. Indeed, small-scale attacks have always been the greater source of danger to the average American because those actually require vigilance on the part of all people, not just law enforcement. This would be fine except Americans have the attention span of a gnat (quick...what was the big story before the birth certificate release last week?) and would insist on the abrogation of the rights of the people they suspect.
The police already effectively have that power and it's already abused regularly nationwide. I'm pretty sure the last thing I want is untrained vigilantes roaming around with that kind of freedom.
There's also the school of thought, as noted yesterday, that home-grown jihadists may take bin Laden's death as a signal to initiate whatever plots they were working on, a sort of "terrorist deadman switch" having been activated. If bin Laden was alive, then bigger plots were in the works, so stay below the radar. Now that he's not, start spraying.
There's yet another possibility: a group or groups we hadn't even considered could have been working with the remnants of Al Qaeda all along, trying to forge an alliance that would pick up where 9/11 left off. These groups could conceivably have the funding and manpower necessary to continue the attacks and so long as Al Qaeda remains in play, we might have a lead on these activities ahead of time. We've spent ten years and who knows how much money to infiltrate Al Qaeda and to provide intel.
We squash Al Qaeda, we squash those efforts.
Oh. The other bird killing bin Laden kills?
You see, it's forced him out of the brush and as Saturday's Correspondents' Dinner showed, the man does not have the strength to run a campaign.