By Representative Ed Royce
The greatest attack against America, on Sept. 11, 2001, ushered in a decade of troubles. Two wars abroad, costly and inconvenient new security measures at home, fiscal woes. Killing the man most responsible for 9/11 -- Osama bin Laden -- won't solve these problems.
What it will do is bring some comfort to Americans harmed on 9/11. Bin Laden's killing also reassures us by demonstrating to the world the competence and determination of our military's elite special units and our covert operators, who have killed thousands of terrorists since 9/11, making us safer. We will get you.
For sure, 9/11 was a psychological and propaganda win for al-Qaida, inspiring jihadists worldwide. Will bin Laden's death deflate al-Qaida and its affiliates? Probably not to the degree that 9/11 inspired them, but it will some, and that is a big help.
I was in Afghanistan in 2001 when U.S. troops believed they had bin Laden trapped in the Tora Bora mountains. Whether he slipped the noose, the event added to his lore. While bin Laden has been largely out of the news here, he has remained a uniquely charismatic inspiration to many. So better late than never. His death at our hands demonstrates our power and will, as crude as that sounds, and in the nasty fight against terrorists, perceptions of power and will matter. This is all good.
The troubling part of this win is in Pakistan.
There are many unanswered questions about the role of Pakistan's intelligence services, deemed a "state within a state," in the sheltering and killing of bin Laden. We should know more in the coming days, but the bottom line is that bin Laden was tracked to a fortified compound in a military town in an area popular with retired Pakistani military. It is implausible that Pakistani security was not in some way helping him. Some are suggesting that he has been there for as long as five years.
It is not as if bin Laden doesn't have friends in Pakistan, where there have been demonstrations protesting his killing. The Pakistani government was already on shaky ground, facing a growing radicalism among its people. The country's secular political figures are routinely assassinated. President Zardari's government will come under intense criticism for "allowing" our operation against bin Laden.
Bin Laden is dead, but his world view will remain popular so long as Pakistan "educates" some children to reject science and math and tolerance and, instead, foster militancy. Some Pakistani youth are schooled to despise the West and our values. Meanwhile, the government spends a meager percentage on public education, while its military gorges. The youth demographic is a ticking time bomb in Pakistan.
Most concerning is Pakistan's sizeable nuclear weapons inventory, which has doubled in recent years. For years, Pakistani governments supported scientist A.Q. Khan as he developed this arsenal and spread nuclear weapons technology to Libya, Iran and North Korea. Although he did inestimable damage to world security, the Pakistanis have never let the U.S. interview Khan, and he lives in peace in Pakistan, treated as a national hero. The Khan case is one of the reasons it won't surprise me if we find out the worst about Pakistani intelligence's handling of bin Laden.
Kudos to our forces who delivered justice to Osama bin Laden. Ten years is too long, but this is a big win nonetheless, especially as many had given up hope. All eyes are on Pakistan now. Much is unknown, but there is no getting around that the world's greatest terrorist was living comfortably in the midst of a nuclear-armed military establishment that has shown indifference to the proliferation of its most deadly weapons and the spread of terrorist ideology. Who knows, maybe we acted in the nick of time.