... without him - Roger Cohen - 4 May 2011

Source : http://www.khaleejtimes.com/displayarticle.asp?xfile=data/opinion/2011/May/opinion_May17.xml&section=opinion&col=

Osama Bin Laden is dead – and so is an old Middle East. That they died together is fortuitous and apt.

Bin Laden lived to propel history backward to the reestablishment of a Muslim caliphate. He died a marginal figure to the transformation fast-forwarding the Arab world toward pluralism and self-expression.
He came of age as the Arab world shifted from Nasserite nationalism to the discovery of identity in political Islamism. It was a potent form of anti-Western defiance. His death comes as post-Islamist revolutions from Tunis to Cairo topple despotism in the name of democratic values long denied Arabs, who, in their vast majority, now seek a reasonable balance between modernity and their faith. Arab pride has disentangled itself from the complex of the West.
Bin Laden’s Holy War drew sustenance from “Westoxification” – the sense of humiliation among Arabs at perceived Western dominance and aggression. Bin Laden whipped that resentment into Al Qaeda’s capacity for nihilistic mass murder.
He died as Arabs en masse move away from the politics of rage and revenge, directed mainly outward, toward a new politics of responsibility and representative government, directed mainly inward.
It is not only the timing of his death at the hands of US forces that is apt, but also its location – far from a Middle East with which he had lost touch. He died in Pakistan. Or rather he died in the so-called AfPak theatre where a decade of war has fed jihadist ideology even as it has lost appeal for Web-savvy Arab youth in the region of its birth.
An era has passed. It was a painful decade of disorientation and American whiplash. The mass murder so agonising it had to be distilled to three digits – 9/11 – poisoned a new century at its outset. Bin Laden was that poison’s slow drip.
There is hope in this passage from the suicidal Arab rage of 9/11 to the brave resistance of Libya’s 2/17 Benghazi revolution – and the other revolutions and uprisings sweeping the region. A long road is left to travel – Al Qaeda is not dead – but the first step was the hardest: the breaking of the captive mind, the triumph of engagement over passivity, the defeat of fear. Bin Laden’s rose-tinged caliphate was the solace of the disenfranchised, the disempowered and the desperate.
This is a triumphant day for a young American president who changed policy, retiring his predecessor’s horrible misnomer, the Global War on Terror in order to focus, laser-like, on the terrorists determined to do the US and its allies harm. Bin Laden had enticed George W. Bush’s flailing America into his web. Obama saw the need for extraction and engagement – extraction from the wars and engagement with the moderate Muslim majority.
How then to complete the work and make a corpse not only of Bin Laden but his movement? Oust Gaddafi with ruthlessness and in short order. Steer the Arab revolutions into port with consistent political support and funding. Arab democracy must also mean Arab opportunity.
End the war in Afghanistan as soon as America’s basic security requirements are met. Make America’s closest regional ally, Israel, understand that a changed Middle East cannot be met with unchanging Israeli policies. Palestine, like Israel, must rise to the region’s dawning post-Osama era of responsibility and representation.
The 2012 campaign just got less interesting. Obama, as I’ve written before, is a lucky man. I suspect luck and purposefulness do a two-term president make. Obama got Osama because he turned a wider tide.
Roger Cohen writes The Globalist column for The International Herald Tribune

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