Bin Laden’s Death Comes at Fortuitous Time for U.S. Security
- By Laura Williams
- May 09, 2011
As more details are coming to light about the role Osama bin Laden played within al Qaeda, two senior fellows at the Hudson Institute are saying that the terrorist leader’s will likely deal a blow to the organization he ran, making the United States and its allies more secure.
“Bin laden was a keystone of that organization,” said Seth Cropsey. “His face was on the picture of magazines and newspapers, and his name was known around the world. You could go to a tiny village in Indonesia and say “bin Laden,” and people would know who you’re talking about. There’s no one else in al Qaeda who has that recognition – name recognition, face recognition, personality – no one.”
Questions about the extent of bin Laden’s involvement in al Qaeda’s operations arose soon after the public learned he had been killed in a raid of his mansion-like compound about 30 miles north of Islamabad.
While applauding his death, many were convinced that, having been isolated for five years – the compound had neither a phone nor an Internet connection – bin Laden served more as a figurehead of the terrorist organization and did little in the way of actually running it. However, evidence gathered from the hard drives and documents Navy SEALs seized in the raid have begun show otherwise, pointing to bin Laden’s direct involvement with terror plots in the United States, including one detailing an attack on a rail line on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Fellow Richard Weitz points out that, among leaders of al Qaeda, bin Laden was alone in his desire to attack the United States.
“al-Qaeda has largely decentralized its operations into autonomous affiliates in Iraq, Yemen, etc. These groups will continue to conduct attacks. The main difference is that they will likely focus their attacks on local targets,” Weitz said. “It was bin Laden who was most insistent on attacking the U.S. homeland as a means to weaken external support for the national monarchies in the Muslim-majority countries that he hoped to overthrow.”
Many of those monarchies have been experiencing the turmoil of escalating democratic protests since the beginning of the year. Both Cropsey and Weitz see these protests as an indication that bin Laden’s mission to undermine these monarchies was faltering.
“Many countries in the area that [the United States is] trying to influence have, in fact, been rising up – but not in the cause that he championed of jihadism and radical Islam, but in the cause of throwing off tyranny,” Cropsey said. “They’re popular movements that express dissatisfaction with dictatorship and with tyranny, and that is proof of the failure of bin Laden’s enterprise.”
Laura Williams is content development editor for Security Products magazine.