Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden

Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was just as much “made in America” as a Chevrolet Corvette is. He was a product of the proxy war that America ran against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. In Operation Cyclone the CIA provided training, money and arms to fundamentalist Muslims, reaching a $630 million spend in 1987. Benazir Bhutto the Pakistani prime minister told the Americans that they were creating a Frankenstein. And so it turned out.

That the Americans have now got their man is more cathartic than anything else. Firstly because his enforced isolation had removed him from relevance to the Al-Qaeda command structure, he had become a historic figure rather than a mover of current events. Secondly because the Americans have largely destroyed Al-Qaeda and have greatly reduced its ability to act. And thirdly, but most importantly, Muslim sentiment has moved on. As we have seen in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria the people want Western style pluralistic, secular democracies. So bin Laden had become an irrelevancy.

What is fascinating now is wondering how much Pakistan state compliance went into hiding bin Laden. Certainly the Americans don’t trust Pakistan and did the operation without telling the Pakistanis. The compound looks like it was custom built at great cost just a few years ago and is in a military town and just a small distance away from the main army academy. The ISI has a long history of acting independently of the government and certainly in the Pakistani state the left hand and the right hand can be doing completely different things. And this is a country with nuclear weapons.

What the death of bin Laden proves above all else is the truth of the old adage “don’t annoy America”. They may be humbled as an economic power but they still have a strategic reach and capability that is well beyond anyone else’s wildest dreams. Osama’s demise was an inevitability.

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