#1. Honor matters. In Osama bin Laden’s part of the world, “honor” equals “power.” When the U.S. takes out the chief of the world’s most well-known terror network, that is a deep humiliation to al-Qaeda’s reputation. As with kicking it out of Afghanistan, crushing it in Iraq, and preventing another 9/11 (at least 38 plots foiled since 9/11), the U.S. has destroyed its global aspirations. Indeed, bin Laden’s death was widely hailed across the globe as cheerfully in the Islamic world as it was in the West. Getting bin Laden greatly dishonored al-Qaeda. The last thing we should do is take the pedal off the metal and give it a chance to recover, strike back, and (as they see it) regain respect.
#2. It got intelligence. Getting bin Laden may have provided the biggest intelligence coup of the long war on terrorism. To hide from America, he lived in a compound without phones or Internet. That means that all the central records of al-Qaeda had to be there with him—the financial transactions, the contacts. Now, they are the property of SEAL Team Six. It is unlikely that we will see al-Qaeda organizing the revenge of bin Laden right now. More likely, the terrorists are running for cover, fearful of what the U.S. might know or the next door they might kick down.
#3. It sent a message to Pakistan. As soon as Obama announced a withdrawal date from Afghanistan, Pakistan started to question U.S. commitment to sticking it out in the region. The Pakistanis have been trying to manage the “terrorist” problem rather than eliminate terrorism. They have been as concerned about using these groups to manage their interests in Afghanistan and India as anything else. That has to stop. The President should use the death of bin Laden to signal to the Pakistanis not that we are pulling but that we are deadly serious about staying and finishing the job.
#4. It sent a message to Afghanistan. Our mission in Afghanistan is to help build a nation that can govern and protect itself so that it can act a seawall to keep the Taliban and their al-Qaeda sponsors from washing back and forth across the two countries. This is a job worth doing and one that can be done. In fact, recent polls show that in the wake of taking out bin Laden, there has been an upswing of Americans who are now convinced that the war in Afghanistan can be won. They are right.
#5. It sent a message to the world. America is a nation that can and will defend itself and protect the freedom and liberties of Americans. Hopefully the President will realize that this can’t be done with special forces alone or just by lobbing drones and cruise missiles at the enemy. (That was the Clinton strategy that failed and led us to 9/11.) SEAL Team Six may have gotten bin Laden, but it was because conventional forces chased him out of Afghanistan, we rounded up prisoners and sent them to Gitmo to be interrogated, and we established a presence in Afghanistan to hold bin Laden at bay and then launch operations against him. A strong military and special operations go hand in hand. A strong military sends a signal to the world that really proclaims, “Don’t tread on me.”
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., contributes posts at The Foundry. He is Deputy Director, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation . http://www.heritage.org/