Taking Out Bin Laden: An Eye for an Eye, a Tooth for a Tooth
Osama bin Laden's death is a victory for America and President Barack Obama. His end brings the hope of a better world a bit closer. It's a chance the West must not squander.
The scene was unforgettable. Then-President George W. Bush sat in the White House shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. Like a Wild West sheriff talking about a despicable criminal, he made it clear he would do everything possible to find Osama bin Laden -- "dead or alive."
Now the Americans have found the al-Qaida leader, and killed him immediately. Thus the complicated question of how and where to try such a mass murderer remains unanswered. But according to the old American understanding of guilt and punishment, justice has been done: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
One can question this form of revenge. Still, even diehard critics of America cannot ignore one simple fact -- bin Laden's death is good news for the world and for freedom.
Death of a Revolutionary
Osama bin Laden, the Arab prince of terror who kept the world on tenterhooks for a decade, has failed in his mission. Many people regarded him as an idol. He promised to free the masses from the control of the West, Arab despots and their followers. But his path produced only new terror, new war and new suffering -- and ultimately his own downfall.
The people of the Arab world have long since chosen a different, better path to freedom. They are currently fighting for more democracy and improved human rights. Bin Laden didn't determine the political agenda. Instead, it was set by freedom fighters in Syria, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and beyond. They realized that Islamic extremism, terrorism and the fight against the West don't bring prosperity and security -- that can only be achieved through their own struggle for freedom. In this way the terrorists lost their breeding ground, piece by piece.
It would be naïve to think that the fight against terror is over. Naturally al-Qaida will continue to exist. Other terrorist leaders will take Osama's place. Many lunatics will see bin Laden as a martyr whose death needs to be avenged, which will make them highly dangerous.
Nevertheless, Islamic extremists have now lost their guiding star, role model and spiritual leader. They will find themselves increasingly isolated. With that comes the hope that their movement will one day simply run out of steam by itself.
America has every reason to celebrate. President Obama's domestic standing will be strengthened -- the assassination operation dispels his opponents' suspicions that he is a weakling when it comes to foreign policy.
But that also means that Obama must use this momentum. America can't return to its old hubristic foreign policy, a policy which inadvertently gave monsters like Osama bin Laden supposed justification for their struggle. America must help to strengthen democracy in the Muslim world, and America must finally make sure there is peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Otherwise there will be another Osama.
Roland Nelles is SPIEGEL ONLINE's Berlin bureau chief.
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