Osama bin Laden is dead at long last: Now what for our country and President Obama's presidency?

community bloggers / Stan Escudero of Daytona Beach Shores

Editor's Note: Because Stan Escudero of Daytona Beach Shores, a community blogger for NSBNews.net, has vast experience as a foreign ambassador for the U.S. government, he was asked to submit his take on the implications of the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden and what Americans can expect from al-Qaeda in response. Escudero, a conservative Republican, also was asked for his take on what the implications are for President Obama with the Bin Laden takedown for re-election for another for years as president. NSBNews.net will also have a response from one of its liberal Democratic community bloggers.
Courtesy photo / Osama bin Laden, the face of evil, is no more.

The raid Sunday which killed Osama bin Laden was a fine victory for the United States and the world, and President Obama deserves his share of the credit for it, but does that in and of itself make a presidency or even justify re-election? The answer is "no!"

It's the American intelligence ops and the U.S. Navy SEALS who hunted down and killed Bin Laden for whom we owe the greatest gratitude and honor. Americans everywhere are rejoicing and rightly so: The terrorist mastermind was the embodiment of the slaughter of the innocents which Islamic Terrorism has committed since 9/11.

Osama bin Laden's death at our hands, with no Americans injured, is a great victory and while the lion's share of credit is due to the US military and the CIA,  the Obama and Bush administrations deserve praise for the continuing efforts to combat terrorism and getting the greatest catch of them all in Bin Laden.

But when the euphoria fades, what then?

First, consider the implications for intelligence activities. No one is talking about it but it seems probable that the SEALS who overran his compound seized computers, documents and perhaps prisoners, all of which could reveal a lot of actionable information about al-Qaida units, personnel, locations and operations.

If so we should expect follow-on operations in the near future – perhaps raids on other sites or targeted assassinations.

This is all to the good but, given the separate and non-hierarchical nature of Al-Qaida’s international operations, we should not expect to capture a complete wiring diagram or roadmap which would enable us to roll up the entire al-Qaida system.

The Obama Administration needs to recognize and accept the glaring irony at the core of the patient, careful intelligence work that led to this victory.

The identity of the trusted Bin Laden courier who unwittingly led us to the terrorist mastermind's compound was obtained four or more years ago from two of the detainees at Guantanamo who were water-boarded. This once again effectively gives the lie to those who falsely claim that harsh interrogation techniques do not work.

Let them pursue that claim with Osama Bin Laden, if they can find him in Hell to ask him. I continue to maintain that, whatever liberals and the courts may say, water boarding is not torture and should be used in extreme cases.

Water boarding causes no permanent damage to a healthy subject. It is humiliating and uncomfortable – eventually it becomes unbearable – and it will cause a subject to reveal information.

Because it is repeatable, it can be used again if information provided by a subject turns out to be a lie. In short it is effective and productive and should be used when necessary on terrorists who, in any case, have consciously placed themselves beyond the Geneva Convention and other boundaries of humane and civilized consideration.

If we cannot bring ourselves to use this technique we should continue the policy of rendition to those who will, recognizing that our own squeamishness places the terrorist prisoners in the hands of persons likely to be far less gentle to them than we.

Our government and our intelligence community should realize from this assault operation that we need to do these things ourselves, holding the information closely and not outsourcing part of them to others.

Recall that Bill Clinton informed the Pakistanis when he launched cruise missiles over Pakistani territory to strike at al-Qaida training camps and, when the missiles struck, the camps were empty. And remember that Bush agreed that Afghan forces could block Bin Laden’s retreat from Jalalabad through Tora Bora and into Pakistan. Needless to say, Bin Laden got away clean.

In the Islamic cultures of southern and central Asia, one avoids, if at all possible, ever taking an unequivocal stance. Even within families different sons will often serve with rival political parties or warlord groups to make survival of family fortunes more likely no matter which side wins.

This cultural imperative will always come into play at some level when dealing with a step as drastic as aiding the major Western Christian power against an Islamic icon such as Bin Laden or the Taliban. In this case, we did it right.

The Paks may have provided some helpful information but they had no idea how much we knew nor what the ultimate operation was to be. We conducted the raid ourselves and today Bin Laden is deep in the ocean with the fishes.

For al-Qaida, this is a devastating blow and one which will alter the nature of their organization. Initially, of course, they will conduct retaliatory terrorist activities, primarily bombings directed against easy soft targets like markets and mosques.

For al-Qaida, this is a devastating blow and one which will alter the nature of their organization. Initially, of course, they will conduct retaliatory terrorist activities, primarily bombings directed against easy soft targets like markets and mosques.

Most of the dead and injured will be fellow Muslims though Americans and other Westerners need to exercise extraordinary caution in coming weeks. But within the Islamic world, death is a massive public relations defeat. And within al-Qaida, his death removes the accepted leader of the entire disparate terrorist structure.

Bin Laden did not organize or direct all individual terrorist operations but his presence enabled the many al-Qaida emirs (leaders) to subsume their own personal or regional rivalries for the sake of the whole.

With Bin Laden's umbrella gone, the fissiparous tendencies which traditionally plague the Islamic world will likely emerge within al-Qaida.

Ayman al-Zawahiri was Bin Laden's No. 2, but he is a product of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and does not necessarily command the allegiance of other powerful terrorist leaders such as Anwar al-Awlaki, the American/Yemeni leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula, nor is it clear that he will enjoy the same support from the fierce Pathan tribes of Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan as did his predecessor.

In addition, there are other large al-Qaida organizations in countries like Algeria and Indonesia, smaller ones on places like Mauritania and that does not begin to address more isolated setups like sleeper cells embedded in Western countries.

Doubtless all of these will try to sort things out but that will require lots of communication, leaving them more vulnerable to intercept and detection.

Rivalries between contending leaders can be encouraged and defections could become more frequent. Some could strike out even more on their own, making possible a wider range of separate solutions to what would be more localized problems.

In the end, Islamic Terrorism will continue but significant elements of al-Qaida will have been weakened and made more vulnerable by Bin Laden’s death.

The killing of Osama Bin Laden will also send predictable ripples through our own government. Most immediately, I would expect calls in Washington for investigations into the degree of Pakistani support for Bin Laden and outcries for an end to foreign aid to Pakistan.

Investigations are understandable given that Bin Laden's compound was an ostentatious fortress located some 100 yards from Pakistan’s Kakul Military Academy in the cantonment city of Abbotabad, a town founded as a military base during the British Raj.

Moreover, it is well-known that Pakistani military intelligence, the ISI, and its former chief, Hamid Gul, have long supported both Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban.

Their reasoning is far too complex for thorough description here but let me just say that there is much more to it than simple anti-Americanism.

In fact, a great many Pakistani military leaders are pro-American. Pak intelligence policies are wrapped around centuries-old concerns regarding the warlike Pathan tribes whose territories include parts of both Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as fears -- irrational in my opinion -- that their great regional enemy India might establish paramount influence in Afghanistan and threaten Pakistan from the north as well as the east.

If Congress undertakes hearings and investigations, they will probably make a great noise and uncover little.

That said, the noise could well focus on cutting off aid to Pakistan and that, in my view, would be a serious mistake. The government in Islamabad rules a population which is strongly fundamentalist Muslim – far more so than the government. The people are angry – some of them violently so – that their government maintains the relationship that it does with the US and the West.

Pakistan and its more powerful neighbor, India, have nuclear weapons and ballistic delivery systems.

Pakistan and its more powerful neighbor, India, have nuclear weapons and ballistic delivery systems.

The Pakistani scientist who stole the plans for the bomb in Europe and developed the weapon in Pakistan, and who is lionized amongst his people, readily passed on those plans to Libya, Iran and North Korea before he was stopped.

The very last thing we want in southern Asia is an Islamic Pakistan cooperating officially and directly with Iran and the Taliban, passing nuclear weapons or weapons info to terrorists or risking nuclear war with India over the disputed province of Kashmir.

We maintain the influence we have in Pakistan largely through our aid program. That may be an unsavory truth, but truth it is nevertheless. Without really knowing, I suspect that the bin Laden raid may have set a new pattern for American targeted commando strikes against important terrorist targets.

I speculate that the SEALS were never instructed to take Bin Laden alive.

There can be no doubt that he had a bullet coming. But had he been taken prisoner he would immediately have been entitled to all the legal protections provided by the American Constitution and law (another mistake, in my view).

A trial could no more have been conducted in the United States than could a trial for Khalid Shaikh Mohammad.

Any legal process involving Bin Laden, even a military process, would have dragged on for months or years under intense press and international scrutiny.

It was entirely in the interest of the United States and the Obama Administration for Bin Laden not to survive the raid. Bin Laden's killing may also provide the victory that the Obama Administration needs to make the beginning of withdrawal from Afghanistan palatable, provided the anticipated Taliban spring offensive is not too damaging.

The unfortunate state of the Afghan government and the only partial defeat of the Taliban, combined with the near certainty of their return in force following an American withdrawal, deny Obama a credible claim that the U.S. has won in Afghanistan.

Clearly, a premature pullout from Afghanistan would open Obama and the Dems to effective Republican attacks that he “cut and ran,” that he betrayed our troops in the field and belittled their sacrifices, repeating the failed policies of Vietnam.

Without a doubt, Bin Laden's death is a big score. That plus a hard pounding of the Taliban this spring and summer may well give Obama the perception he needs of decisive victory.

Without a doubt, Bin Laden's death is a big score. That plus a hard pounding of the Taliban this spring and summer may well give Obama the perception he needs of decisive victory.

If he can portray it so, any later Taliban victory can be blamed on the Karzai government in Kabul. In the near future I would expect the Administration to begin to link Osama’s death to a favorable outcome in Afghanistan.

Of course, that link is entirely mythical, but if Obama can get the voters to believe it and keep believing through 2012, that would suit him just fine.

Economically, Osama’s death has already resulted in a sharp rise in the stock market and a drop in commodity prices, including oil, gold and silver.

Those shifts will be short-lived and the reasons for their short life illustrate the last point I want to make: Bin Laden's death changes none – not one – of the economic factors which have placed our economy and political system at such grave risk. Our debt and deficit remain unsustainable and continue to grow at an enormous pace. Obama’s policies would accelerate that growth.

The threat to the role of the dollar as the global reserve currency and, consequently, to our capacity to use the time we can gain through substantial budget and spending cuts to grow ourselves out of this mess, is looming larger by the week.

The fed’s frightening announcement that it will somehow maintain low interest rates while ceasing the purchase of our T-Bills is believed by no-one.

Obama’s policies continue to expand the growth and authority of government and impose heavy burdens on the private sector from which he corruptly exempts his political supporters.

His energy policies will collapse our domestic fossil fuel production capacity and shift to dependence on overpriced and underperforming alternative energy sources which will destroy our capability to compete in the international marketplace in almost everything.

With the exception of the Bin Laden takedown, Obama's foreign policy seems mindless and largely divorced from any coherent appreciation of U.S. national interests.  

With the exception of the Bin Laden takedown, Obama's foreign policy seems mindless and largely divorced from any coherent appreciation of U.S. national interests. 

The future of our nation continues to demand Obama’s removal from office in the 2012 elections and his replacement along with his misguided or malevolent supporters with conservatives who can take the hard measures which alone can restore America to its rightful place in the world.

Stanley T. Escudero 

NSBNews.net, also known as VolusiaNews.net, provides Volusia County 24 / 7 Internet newspaper coverage, 100% free with breaking news, news of record and investigative reports from New Smyrna Beach, FL, for a 21st-century digital world.  

About the Blogger

Stan Escudero's picture

The Guidepost By Stanley Escudero
Stan Escudero is a retired career diplomat & businessman,
who lives in Daytona Beach Shores, FL with his wife, Jaye.

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