After bin Laden: Is the war on terror over?

Now that bin Laden is dead, can the terrorist threats that remain be handled with aggressive policing?

Can we now call an end to “the Age of Terror”? said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. Ever since 9/11, Americans have been held hostage by our fear of the ghoulishly grinning face of Osama bin Laden, who goaded us into two costly wars and inspired the “vast expansion” of government surveillance into our private lives. Bin Laden’s death is “nothing short of a liberation” for Americans, freeing us to think more clearly about “which of our fears are rational and which are not.” It was bin Laden, remember, who framed his jihad as a holy war between Islam and the West, said The Boston Globe in an editorial. Given that only a few thousand terrorists were involved, it was unwise of Washington to treat the so-called war on terror “as a strategic paradigm on a par with the Cold War.” Terrorism should now be viewed in its “true dimensions—as a tactical threat to be met with aggressive policing.”

It’s absurd to claim that the war on terror was “an overreaction,” said Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post. We were only able to track and kill bin Laden in Pakistan because of the “vast, war-like infrastructure” created by President Bush after 9/11, including programs to capture and interrogate terrorists and monitor their communications. And the U.S. will need to stay on this war footing for a long time to come, said Frederick and Kimberly Kagan in The Weekly Standard. We’ll also have to keep our troops in Afghanistan—to prevent Islamic extremists from returning to power—and commit military resources to tackling “dangers already visible on the horizon,” such as the rise of anti-Western Islamist groups in Somalia, Yemen, and other countries. It’s still way too early to declare “mission accomplished.”

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