Many on the left are disposed to announce the end of the war against radical jihadism (they don’t call it that, of course). Not surprisingly, Peter Beinart leads the ragtag mob in suggesting we can now put this all behind us.
Painting President Obama as the “winning” president and removing a drain on the funds available for all manner of domestic spending are too great a temptation for those who never fully accepted that we are not fighting a discrete group of terrorist but Islamic fundamentalism, as expressed in a variety of form and waging war in multiple venues. They are, as any decent human being would be, chomping at the bit to declare our decade-old war as over. Let’s get back to normal, they urge.
The Post reports that “al-Qaeda has metastasized in the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, expanding its reach and adapting its tactics in ways that make the organization likely to remain the most significant security threat to the United States despite its leader’s demise.” The spread of al-Qaeda is not new, of course, but the death of a single figure highlights how misleading is the false equivalence between the war on Islamic fundamentalism and the battle against a discrete branch of al-Qaeda:
Al-Qaeda has established ties to militant movements in other countries, such as Somalia. And even in Pakistan, where bin Laden was killed, the terrorist group functions in some ways as a force multiplier for other militant organizations, including the Afghanistan Taliban — lending expertise and inspiration to groups increasingly capable of wreaking devastation on their own. President Obama acknowledged in his late-night speech Sunday that bin Laden’s death did not mark the end of the al-Qaeda threat. “There is no doubt al-Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us,” Obama said. “We must, and we will remain, vigilant at home and abroad.”
Nevertheless, there will be voices on the right and left that will use this as a pretext (never let an assassination go to waste?) to root for an isolationist foreign policy. The deficit hawks on the right will argue that we now have a peace dividend. The neo-isolationists on the left will heartily agree. This is foolishness. The death of an exemplar of evil is to be welcomed, but it is not the conclusion of the war against a jihadist movement that still seeks to murder Americans.