Worldview: It’s monumental news, but we need to keep it in perspective

The news that Osama bin Laden has been killed is certainly monumental, incredible news, especially since he managed to evade capture for such a long time. Yet, as important as his death may be, it marks but a single event in a much larger, longer conflict.

To a great degree, bin Laden was a figurehead, a rallying figure for the millions upon millions of people around the world who use their interpretation of Islam to justify violence, oppression, hatred, and fear. While his death removes that figurehead, it does not remove the justification.

This conflict is not and never was going to be won by simply killing bin Laden any more than Iraq was secured by simply capturing Saddam Hussein and killing his sons. This conflict is not even going to be won by the application of military force alone. Instead, this is a conflict over the hearts and minds of people held in tyranny for generations, and it is going to take conviction and diplomacy as well as force to win.

Because of this fact, we must resist the powerful urge to conclude that we have won and that it is now time to wind things down. There may yet be a time when that reaction is appropriate, but it must be a time when the future of Afghanistan is as secured as it ever will be. Yes, it has been a long war, and many of us who have been paying attention to these things all along have said it was going to be, but we cannot quit before the job is done, because the consequences of quitting will be worse than those of outright failure.

So, we should celebrate the victory bin Laden’s death represents, but we should do so with the caution born of the knowledge that a rough road still lies ahead. And, we should resolve ourselves to walk that road until its end.

DLH

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Worldview: 2010: The news that wasn’t

To me, 2010 was defined as much by what did not happen as by what did. It was an anxious year, one that could have been far worse or far better.

Last January 1, I endeavored to make several predictions about the coming year, an impossible task, yet an interesting intellectual exercise nonetheless. Let’s see how I did:

  • The Pakistani conflict with al Qaeda and the Taliban will come to a head: While the Pakistani government did not fall in 2010, the intensity of the country’s internal struggles increased to the point that the distinction between insurgency and civil war is almost irrelevant. The list of major terrorist events inside Pakistan is immense, and reminds me a lot of how Iraq looked in 2005 before the surge. Frankly, it is amazing that the national government managed to survive, and I suspect it owes a lot of its survival to the fact that it ceded control of broad swaths of the country to militants.
  • Iran will demonstrate its capacity to build and deliver a nuclear weapon: I was very surprised that this did not happen, but I think we can congratulate on thing for the fact that it did not: Stuxnet. The Stuxnet worm was a stroke of genius on some nation’s part that was more effective in hampering Iran’s nuclear progress than a thousand bombers could have been. Still, Iran is moving forward with its projects, including the potential of basing missiles in Venezuela capable of reaching the United States.
  • The war in Afghanistan will be revealed to be even more difficult than first officially acknowledged: I think I nailed this one, mostly because the Obama administration has demonstrated no resolve for winning this conflict directly. Coupled with the deep problems in Pakistan, Afghanistan looked increasingly dire in 2010, although there are signs victory is still within reach, especially now that General David Petraeus is in charge of the show.
  • A major terrorist attack against a Western nation will succeed: They did not fail for lack of trying. 2010 was full of attempts to attack the west that failed or were thwarted. The only thing that amazes me more than their lack of success was their apparent ineptitude.
  • Third party candidates will make significant inroads in the November general election: The Tea Party thwarted my hopes for the 2010 midterms as much as it did the Democrats. Perhaps it is not fair to just blame the Tea Party: American voters are creatures of habit, hence our 200-year-long two party system. That said, the next two years should be an entertaining political train wreck.

In a way, I guess some could say that the world turned out far better than I expected it to on 2010.

DLH

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