KNOWLEDGEABLE COMMENT – AT 11:20 A.M. ET: There have been so many talking heads and writing heads in action since the death of bin Laden, that it's gratifying to find some knowledgeable people who are actually contributing something to the discussion. Max Boot is one of them, and he warns that the death of bin Laden actually changes very little. From RealClearWorld:
Those who claim that we can disengage from Afghanistan now that the "emir" of al Qaeda is dead seem to assume the whole organization will disappear with him. It might, but it might not. Other terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah have survived the loss of their leaders.
Opponents of the war effort also argue that the Navy SEAL raid should be a model for the kind of counterterrorist approach we should adopt more generally, relying on pinpoint strikes rather than dispatching 100,000 ground troops to carry out a grueling counterinsurgency campaign.
President Obama has repeatedly provided superficial support for this view by claiming that our "core goal" in Afghanistan is limited to "disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda." No doubt he put the emphasize on al Qaeda because it is the terrorist group that most Americans worry about the most. But since 2001 it has never had more than a few dozen fighters at a time inside Afghanistan.
Of greater immediate concern are al Qaeda's allies: the Quetta Shura Taliban, the Haqqani network and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HiG), which among them deploy thousands of hardened terrorists. These groups, in turn, are part of a larger conglomeration of extremists based in Pakistan including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (the Pakistani Taliban), Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
All of these organizations share an eagerness to slaughter civilians and a desire to create a totalitarian regime modeled on Taliban-era Afghanistan. All are rabidly hostile to Westerners, Jews, Hindus, Shiites and anyone else who does not share their hard-core Salafist beliefs.
COMMENT: We are facing an ideology, not merely an organization. Many people don't want to accept that. Drilled in the multicultural dribble of the universities, they believe we're just having a problem with some rotten apples.
Churchill warned of militant Islam a century ago. As usual, he wasn't taken seriously. Now we have those who, with every turn of events, argue that the fight is over and that we can go home. There is speculation that Obama may use the death of bin Laden to argue that our mission in Afghanistan is nearly complete, and that we can start withdrawing a large contingent of troops. Maybe we can. I'm not an expert on Afghanistan. But those who think this battle is over are underestimating the power of ideas, especially when those ideas are spread through the influence of mass media.
This is the long war, or what President Kennedy called a "twilight struggle," most of it waged without large land battles. Our victory is far from guaranteed. Our defeat would change civilization very much for the worse.
May 9, 2011