Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Osama bin Laden

"Ask Osama bin Laden whether I engage in appeasement," President Barack Obama said this month in response to Republican charges that he was overly accommodating of America's enemies. And that, really, is all Osama bin Laden amounts to now; a kind of Che Guevara image for the jihadist tchotchke industry and a prop for a politically vulnerable president to prove his national security mettle. In truth, Bin Laden's significance to the wider Middle East political dynamic had always been wildly overstated by American fears following the 9/11 attacks. His marginalization was laid bare when the Arab masses finally rose in rebellion against the "apostate" regimes he'd always railed against, but ignored his movement and turned, instead, to the young and restless twitterati and the mainstream Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood that had long been denounced as traitors by al-Qaeda. Bin Laden was killed in May by a U.S. Navy SEAL raid on his compound in Abottabad (which deepened Pakistan-U.S. enmity), but politically he'd been little more than a ghost for most of the previous decade.