What Osama's Death Means

He was a has-been terrorist, but a powerful symbol
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2011 1:30 AM CDT
People gather in Times Square New York May 2, 2011 shortly after the announcement from the President Obama announced Osama bin Laden was dead.   (Getty Images/AFP)

(Newser) – Guess what everybody’s writing about today? Osama bin Laden’s death has rung out through the commentariat. Here’s what they’re saying:

  • The strike “is not quite the triumph it would have seemed a decade ago,” argues Ross Douthat, in a New York Times piece entitled “Death of a Failure.” Because after years without a major attack on the US, we know that “our civilization is not fundamentally threatened by the utopian fantasy politics embodied by groups like al-Qaeda, or the mix of thugs, fools and pseudointellectuals who rally around their banner.”
  • But make no mistake: This matters, argues David Von Drehle for Time. “It matters because the US put a marker down. … It matters because people had begun to doubt whether American power was truly power,” and most of all because “we were running out of role models.” Obama finished his address last night as “a stronger president of a stronger nation.”

  • “Justice has been done,” was precisely the right tone for President Obama to take, writes Joel Achenbach in the Washington Post. “No need for cowboy talk or triumphalism. Americans shouldn’t gloat: The message needs to be that this was justice, not vengeance.”
  • It’s fitting, says Roger Cohen, that bin Laden and the “old Middle East” died at the same time. “Bin Laden thrived on Arab despotism and on the American hypocrisy involved in supporting that repression,” he writes. Now, Obama seems at least somewhat credibly committed to spreading freedom. “Al-Qaeda is not dead—but the first step was the hardest: the breaking of the captive Arab mind.”

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