Bin Laden's Death Shatters Conventional Wisdom

Why bin Laden's death may not make us safer.

We can certainly expect acts of retribution, vengeance, frustration and punishment directed against the U.S. in the coming weeks and perhaps months. The questions here are twofold: Might not al-Qaeda and its allies embrace the same highly effective social networking technologies and techniques that have so galvanized the people of North Africa and the Middle East in recent months to present us with a far more diffuse, challenging, more difficult to anticipate and indeed to track threat from unaffiliated or only marginally affiliated persons associated with the al-Qaeda movement who might be easily and readily mobilized in real time to violently vent their frustration over their ideological leaders death? The potential for these smaller, independent-type of operations to provide a potential smoke-screen for a more serious attack, perpetrated by core al-Qaeda, cannot be discounted. This would be a useful way of distracting our attention from the potentially larger, more serious, threats by preoccupying and consuming the attention of intelligence and law enforcement and the military on lower level threats. At the same time, the question remains which group or leader will seek to use the vacuum created by Bin Laden’s demise as an opportunity to step into his shoes, take up his mantle of jihad by demonstrating their capacity for violence on a scale perhaps not equal to Bin Laden’s in the 9/11 attacks, but of potentially great consequence and pain to ourselves. We need to view the past twenty-four hours’ events as a significant victory, a major battle, and perhaps a turning point in what remains indisputably a long war.