This morning I awoke to the kind of raucous celebration only ever demonstrated during World Series or Superbowl victories. The Afghan Assassin, the Jester of Jihad, the Turbaned Terror himself - Osama bin Laden - is finally dead. Now that that's over with, we can pronounce terrorism done for and world peace successfully achieved, right? Wrong.
Nobody likes being a buzzkill. I appreciate the historic nature of this event because of the harm that he has caused many innocent people around the world, the power of his voice and propaganda to incite violence, and because he turned out to be so damn hard to get. But this was revenge, and revenge doesn't end wars. I don't doubt that killing him was the necessary thing to do, but in a few years we will not be looking back on this as the pivot point that finally allowed us to take our men and women in uniform out of Afghanistan. Rather than celebrate in the streets as many in America are doing, I grudgingly accept the grim reality that this needed to be done, regret the price in terms of lives and dollars that we paid along the way, and lament the long road we still have ahead of us.
Some have argued with me that we desperately need a victory right now and should take this opportunity to celebrate. I can certainly understand that, but my biggest fear is that the media is creating unrealistic expectations for what this means for America and the world. Just a few Google searches brings up ample parallels between Osama bin Laden's death and that of Hitler. I know that they share the same May 1st anniversary, but there are a number of reasons why yesterday's events will be anti-climactic in comparison. Hitler rose to power by capitalizing on the suffocating sense of defeat, desperation, and betrayal among his countrymen following the first World War. He was a prominent and outgoing leader who built a military machine from his own charisma, and the sense of nationalism that he cultivated allowed him to get away with some pretty heinous acts... for a while. By the time of his death, many in Germany had come to learn of the terrible crimes that he committed and were just as horrified as we were here in America. They were ready to shake off that dark part of their history and join the Western world once again. On the other hand, bin Laden headed an organization built upon decades of international misconduct and religious extremism. Theirs is a holy conflict that goes beyond mere hatred. There will be no peace treaty, no end in sight for al Qaeda, and definitely no end to terrorism. Worse yet, we will continue to see the loss of American and Afghani lives as the war rages on.
So what does this mean for us, should we sit quietly and refuse to enjoy this satisfying accomplishment? Of course not. What we should do is avoid unrealistic expectations for what this means going forward, understand that in all likelihood the euphoria that we feel is bound to be short-lived, and behave knowing that our reaction to this has the potential to endear us or antagonize us further in the eyes of the Muslim world.