Gleanings, 02.05.11

NB. Most of the postings (and the regularity of) the Gleanings comes from Fabian Pascal (oao), who blogs at The PostWest.

Spengler: Osama a casualty of the Arab revolt (MUST READ)

More surprising than the death of Osama bin Laden on Monday was the fact that he lived unmolested in a mansion in Abbottabad, about 65 kilometers north of the Pakistani capital Islamabad. How many Pakistani officials and others must have known about this? “America can do whatever we set out mind to,” President Barack Obama intoned in his May 1 announcement of Bin Laden’s death at the hands during a strike by Pakistani and American special forces. Not, apparently, without a little help from its friends, and remarkably belated help at that.

… It is hard to conclude otherwise that Bin Laden died this week because people who knew his whereabouts chose this particular moment to inform the US authorities. What has changed? The simple answer is: everything has changed. Instability in the Muslim world has reached a level that makes Bin Laden redundant.

… The royal family preferred to allow some of its more radically-inclined members to provide support to Bin Laden on a covert basis in return for al-Qaeda’s de facto agreement to leave the Arabian Peninsula in peace … With the destabilization of Yemen, that sort of modus vivendi became obsolete … In the slow-burning civil war in Yemen – a proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran – al-Qaeda acted as an Iranian ally. This was an annoyance to the Saudis as long as the Saudi-allied regime remained intact. The near collapse of Saleh’s regime, though, threatens to give Iran an additional foothold on the Saudi border.

… The Saudis, moreover, have an interest in cleaning up the terrorist associations of the Pakistani military. As the Saudi cold war with Iran grows increasingly hot, Riyadh may look towards Islamabad for military support … And there is speculation that Saudi Arabia in a pinch might ask for Pakistani troops, and also that Riyadh might source nuclear weapons technology from Pakistan to counter Iran’s nuclear program. Where else might the Saudis go for support in a war with Iran? The Saudis cannot trust the United States. King Abdullah reportedly was enraged that Obama pulled the rug out from under Mubarak, a longstanding American ally. And they cannot trust the Turks, who have become the region’s spoiler.

… Ironically, Bin Laden appears to be a casualty in the great Arab breakdown of 2011. We can only guess as to the details of his demise, and may never know the entire truth. But it is a fair conclusion that he was crushed between the tectonic plates now shifting in the Muslim world. That makes American self-congratulation over the killing a bit unseemly. American special forces may have been the proximate cause of Bin Laden’s violent death, but the efficient cause is a great strategic upheaval that America does not yet understand, and is not prepared to respond to.

Ben Smith: About that peace process

This makes fairly clear that the Israel-Palestinian talks, which had seemed futile with divided Palestinian leadership, seem futile for a different reason if Hamas takes a leadership role:

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, called bin Laden a martyr.

“We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior,” Haniyeh told reporters. “We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood.”

The Palestinian Authority cheered the killing.

FP: The PA is shrewder and thinking about September. Hamas knows that nothing it does will stop the West from ultimately recognizing it and it treats it with the contempt it deserves.


Obama will take credit for the death of al-Qaeda’s leader, and he deserves it — for the aggressive war he waged in Pakistan in particular. This was a forward strategy that provoked the wrath of the “liberal” establishment when Nixon tried it in Vietnam, and Reagan in Libya and Bush in Iraq. Unfortunately, this is only the right hand of Obama’s strategy towards the  jihad. The left hand is simultaneously stoking the fires of Islamic aggression in its heartland, the Middle East, and our war with this evil is just beginning.

… In his speech tonight the President talked as though the war is a war with al-Qaeda, although al-Qaeda has played a very small and diminishing role in the 17,000 plus Islamic terrorist attacks that have been perpetrated since 9/11. After that attack, Bush swore that the United States would not tolerate terrorist regimes that threatened the democracies of the West. You’re either for us or against us he said, to the dismay of the appeasement Left. But since then Islamic terrorist regimes have been created in Lebanon and Gaza and Somalia, the Taliban has been resurgent in Pakistan and the Muslim Brotherhood has risen in Egypt. The storm clouds that are gathering — not least because of the feckless ineptitude of the Obama Administration itself — will not be dispelled by one man’s death.

Stephen Hunter (via PowerLine): Malignant Narcissism

Any joy one might feel in the intelligence of our analysts and the bravery of our door kickers was significantly diminished by Obama’s malignant narcissism. The first part of the announcement, evoking 9/11, was vulgarly overwritten as per Obama’s view of himself as some kind of gifted orator. The adjective bloated compote was unworthy of the subject, banal and self-indulgent.

Then there were his tasteless claims of personal leadership, his over-emphasis on “I” and “at my direction.” Clearly, all he did was sign off on initiatives other, better men had originated. He was ungenerous to Bush, who had to deal with this thing in real time under more pressure any president has faced since Pearl Harbor and wasn’t helped by the treachery of the democratic party, as exemplified by then Senator Obama. Clearly, we staged from Afghanistan. We were able to stage from Afghanistan because of Bush and the intel that led to the kill was just as obviously developed over years of effort, begun by Bush.

Finally, the NBC worship of O on the lead-in was mentally and morally repugnant. They used this as an example to bash Bush, mocking the fact that eight years ago to the day Bush had been photographed under a mission accomplished sign, without reference to the fact that the sign referred to Iraq, not Afghan, not the GWoT. And that Obama’s course in his presidency has been made so much easier by virtue of the fact that Bush won the war that Obama and his cohort so opposed and yearned for our defeat in.

That said, God bless the commandos! Man, I would have like to have been on that entry team!

Victor Davis Hanson: Bin Laden — Ne Requiescat in Pace

The death of bin Laden is as welcome as it raises strange afterthoughts. First, what a relief that we are all united in joy at the news. Second, it is a relief that he was not captured by a foreign nation. And good too that we did not bring him back alive to repeat the KSM fiasco. It is also fortuitous that his demise came at the hands of U.S. soldiers in battle on the ground, rather than from the air via Predator drones — it reflects far better on the audacity and skill of our troops, and, far more importantly, allows us to bring his corpse back for positive I.D.

… But far more importantly, how has bin Laden been hiding in such apparently comfortable surroundings, inside, rather than on the border of, Pakistan, a recipient of billions in aggregate aid? Their former mea culpa — that Waziristan was bin Laden’s likely hide-away and sadly a frontier badlands beyond their own reach — seems right now to be hollow.

So did we operate with or without Pakistan’s Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.? If the latter, and if it is proven that OBL was hiding in plain sight, I think it could be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back of this Orwellian partnership with Pakistan — despite the PR to come that we owe, are in debt to, etc. to Pakistan. We will need some honest talk for a change about exactly what is going on. Or is it more likely that we confronted the Pakistanis with the intelligence and they red-faced joined us at the 11th hour?

Finally, this comes at a fortunate time. No one is talking of victory any more in Afghanistan; we seem confused in Libya, so the death of bin Laden reminds us that the U.S. can still take the war to the enemy in his own backyard, and act with confidence and audacity rather than “leading from behind.” Let us hope that Dr. Zawahiri is next — though the al Qaeda generation of 2001 seems almost enfeebled now, and are nearly all scattered, killed, or captured.

Elliott Abrams: Bin Laden, Obama, and the Arab Spring

It is therefore unfortunate that Mr. Obama seems to want more than that fair share the American people will naturally and rightly give him.  His remarks last night were far too much laced with words like “I met repeatedly,”  “at my direction,” and “I determined,” trying to take personal credit for the years of painstaking work by our intelligence community.  Mr. Obama might have noted that this work began under President Bush, but as usual he did not.  It was also a mistake for him to use this occasion to deliver unrelated comments about “the pursuit of prosperity for our people” and “the struggle for equality for all our citizens.”  A shorter and more straightforward announcement would have been more appropriate for this occasion.

Once again here the White House appeared unable to get the messaging quite right, a failure magnified by the amateurish delay of more than an hour in Mr. Obama’s remarks.  The White House told the nation at roughly 10 p.m. that the President would speak at 10.30.  Had the President done so, he would have delivered fabulous and shocking news.  By the time he actually spoke nearer to midnight his words were an anticlimax, for all the news had leaked.  Whatever the cause of this delay—Mr. Obama editing the remarks for too long, or a belatedly discovered need to brief Congressional and world leaders—it suggested that the calm professionalism in the face of crisis shown here by our military and intelligence professionals has yet to be achieved in the White House.

Gideon Rachman: Conspiracy theories about Osama’s death

Meanwhile, how long before the conspiracy theories start? The fact that the Americans got rid of the body so fast – and at sea – will feed the arguments of those who will want to believe that this was not really bin Laden.

But why should the Americans pretend to kill their enemy number one – rather than actually tracking him down? If you are a right-wing American conspiracy theorist, you might argue that it is because Obama wants to secure re-election. (After the controversy over Obama’s birth certificate, why not have one over Osama’s death certificate?)

The Pakistani conspiracy theory is more likely to be that the US is searching for an excuse to go to war with Pakistan and seize the country’s nuclear weapons – hence this made-up story about killing Osama.

Incredible? Not at all. I give it twenty four hours before those theories start circulating.

David Sanger: In Bin Laden’s Death, a Critical Moment for the Arab World

But none of that assures that the “alternative narrative” Mr. Obama frequently speaks about will take hold. With the Muslim Brotherhood showing some success in organizing for coming elections in Egypt, and extremist groups hoping to profit from the civil war in Libya and the protests in Syria, it is far from clear that the revolutions under way today will not be hijacked by groups that have a closer affinity to Al Qaeda ideology than democratic reform.

Henry Kissinger noted recently that revolutionaries “rarely survive the process of the revolution.” There is usually a “second wave” that can veer off in a different direction. Whether that second wave will follow the path laid out by the young creators of the Arab Spring, or Bin Laden’s acolytes seeking revenge, may well determine whether Mr. Obama can use Bin Laden’s death to put a coda on a grim decade.

Daniel Pipes: Thoughts on the Killing of Osama bin Laden

Bin Laden was just a part of Al-Qaeda which is just a part of the Islamic terrorist effort which is just a part of the Islamist movement, so the announcement of his death tonight by the U.S. government makes little operational difference. The war on terror has not fundamentally changed, much less been won.

But because bin Laden symbolized Islamic terror, his taunting presence via video and audio recordings for nearly ten years after 9/11 energized his allies and frustrated his enemies. Conversely, his execution by U.S. forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan gives Americans pride in their country, encourages the security and intelligence organizations, and is a body blow to Islamists. (May 1, 2011)

STRATFOR: Red Alert: Osama bin Laden Killed

It is difficult to understand what this means at this moment, but it permits the Obama administration to claim victory, at least partially, over al Qaeda. It also opens the door for the beginning of a withdrawal from Afghanistan, regardless of the practical impact of bin Laden’s death. The mission in Afghanistan was to defeat al Qaeda, and with his death, a plausible claim can be made that the mission is complete. Again speculatively, it will be interesting to see how this affects U.S. strategy there.

PowerLine: Osama bin gone: Islamically correct

The AP story on the operation leading to bin Laden’s death reports that bin Laden’s remains were disposed at sea and states: “The U.S. official who disclosed the burial at sea said it would have been difficult to find a country willing to accept the remains. Obama said the remains had been handled in accordance with Islamic custom, which requires speedy burial.” Is this some kind of a joke? The treatment of bin Laden’s remains is not mentioned in Obama’s formal remarks.

Turning to the press briefing by senior administration officials speaking on background, we find this comment on the treatment of bin Laden’s remains: “SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are ensuring that it is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition. This is something that we take very seriously. And so therefore this is being handled in an appropriate manner.”


PowerLine: Compare and Contrast

Nancy Pelosi, press conference, September 7, 2006:

[E]ven if [Osama bin Laden] is caught tomorrow, it is five years too late. He has done more damage the longer he has been out there. But, in fact, the damage that he has done … is done. And even to capture him now I don’t think makes us any safer.

Nancy Pelosi, earlier today:

The death of Osama bin Laden marks the most significant development in our fight against al-Qaida. … I salute President Obama, his national security team, Director Panetta, our men and women in the intelligence community and military, and other nations who supported this effort for their leadership in achieving this major accomplishment. … [T]he death of Osama bin Laden is historic….

It is unfortunate that many public figures are unable to view events otherwise than through a partisan prism. Osama bin Laden’s operational significance had undoubtedly dwindled over the years, and al Qaeda, after nine years of relentless attacks, is a shadow of its former self. But bin Laden’s death is obviously an important and helpful milestone in the long war against radical Islam. Congratulations to all who worked so hard for nearly a decade to bring it about.

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