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Tag Archives: Osama bin Laden
By Sean M. Lynn-Jones On June 4, a missile fired from a pilotless U.S. drone reportedly killed Abu Yahya al-Libi, said to be al-Qaida’s second-in-command, in a remote region of Pakistan. Just over a year earlier, U.S. special forces stormed … Continue reading
Some hawks have cited the skillful military operation that killed Osama Bin Laden as proof that terrorism must be dealt with by hard power, not soft power. But such conclusions are mistaken. A smart strategy against terrorism also requires a large measure of soft power.
Terrorists have long understood that they can never hope to compete head on with a major government in terms of hard power. Instead, they use violence to create drama and narrative that gives them the soft power of attraction. Terrorists rarely overthrow a government. Instead, they try to follow the insights of jujitsu to leverage the strength of a powerful government against itself. Terrorist actions are designed to outrage and provoke over-reactions by the strong.
For example, Osama bin Laden’s strategy was to provoke the United States into reactions that would destroy its credibility, weaken its allies across the Muslim world, and eventually lead to exhaustion. The United States fell into that trap with the invasion of Iraq. According to a May 6 article in the National Journal, “By conservative estimates, bin Laden cost the United States at least $3 trillion over the past 15 years, counting the disruptions he wrought on the domestic economy, the wars and heightened security triggered by the terrorist attacks he engineered, and the direct efforts to hunt him down.”
Osama bin Laden’s death is a victory as well as vindication over the terror and pain that his actions had spawned over the years. Al Qaida has been dealt a significant blow. People of all walks of life, age and creed will remember this moment of justice rendered.
At the same time, finding that bin Laden had been hiding in the heartland of Pakistan and living in a fortified house within the vicinity of a prime Pakistani military academy raises serious questions. This comes after a long list of other security concerns that have befallen the country, including high-level assassinations, terrorist acts, and nuclear proliferation activities. It also revives uncertainties on the extent to which the government is in full and effective control the country. Such lingering concerns are neither good for Pakistan nor for the region. With the immense challenges and complexities facing Pakistan, its leadership and stability are both vitally important.
Pakistan’s support has been crucial in battling many of the threats mentioned above. In particular, Pakistan’s assistance is needed in the fight against nuclear terrorism. If Pakistan were to fail in this fight, it would be everyone’s failure as well. But the signs are troubling. Pakistan is on a nuclear upswing and has been building additional nuclear weapons by boosting its plutonium production capacities. It is in the process of commissioning a third plutonium production reactor, starting construction of a fourth reactor at Khushab, and is completing its reprocessing plant at Chashma. By the end of this decade, Pakistan is poised to have the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal.
The Power & Policy Fellows’ Forum By Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs We must remain especially vigilant over the next weeks and months. There is likely to be a global spike in terrorist threats … Continue reading