Bin Laden is Dead, but His Legacy Lives On

Bin Laden is Dead, but His Legacy Lives On

Osama bin Laden, the founder of the al Qaeda terror organization and mastermind of the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001, was killed by U.S. operatives late on May 1st. Without a doubt, bin Laden's death can be considered a considered a major milestone and offers closure for the American public.
At the same time, however, U.S. efforts in the Middle East remain far from over. It can be argued that events in the region are continuing to unfold as bin Laden hoped, and even expected, they would.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. played right into bin Laden’s hands by overreacting and invading two countries within eighteen months of each other. The U.S. “war on terror” should have culminated with the precise destruction of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, limited humanitarian relief, and exit. Instead, the U.S. elected to become immersed in another war totally unrelated to the fight against terror-Iraq-and neglected to pursue extremism in Afghanistan down to its roots.
By engaging in the folly of nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. ensured that it would remain ensnared in two conflicts that would render its military threadbare and reallocate billions of tax payers’ dollars into a black hole. Political theorist John Mueller once said that most of the cost of terrorism comes from the overreaction it provokes. Indeed, the U.S. did exactly what it wasn't supposed to do in the time after 9/11, and exactly what bin Laden hoped it would. The endgame in these conflicts will not occur until at least three years after bin Laden’s death.
The U.S.’s extensive efforts are by no means certain to bring about the desired course of action. On the contrary, its attempts at regime change may eventually play into the hands of Islamic extremists. Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan have traditions of democracy, and the forceful transition to a new way of politics has not gone smoothly for them. Corruption and infighting abound, and neither government has demonstrated the ability to establish security and sovereignty. Terrorist organizations thrive off of unstable or failing states; it is not unlikely that Afghanistan and Iraq could unravel into chaos and become incubators of further radicalism.
Though the sheer brutality of 9/11 managed to alienate bin Laden from most of the world, al Qaeda’s exploits have nonetheless stimulated many others to join the struggle to establish a global caliphate. While U.S. pressure on al Qaeda’s tradition havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan managed to isolate bin Laden from most of his organization, other loose affiliates began to emerge and gain momentum. For instance, the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda (its immediate connections to bin Laden’s organization are disputed) rose to prominence as the U.S. began turning up the heat in Afghanistan. It now seems to have the capacity to carry out sophisticated attacks. Bin Laden’s idea caught fire a decade ago, but it has not burned itself out yet.
At the time of his killing, bin Laden was probably not wholly unsatisfied with the state of affairs in the Middle East. Following his terror attack of unparalleled proportions, the U.S. gave him the apocalyptic confrontation he desired. In becoming the object of history’s most costly goose chase that spanned the course of a decade, he helped draw the U.S. into becoming mired in two wars that have taxed the U.S. economy and may only yield more disorder in the region. While any notion of a global caliphate being established is absurd, the movement bin Laden was instrumental in inspiring continues to succeed in exacting a steady toll on the U.S. and thwarting its objectives in the Middle East. Despite the death of modern radical Islam's greatest mind, his visions, however depraved, endure.