For militant and extremist groups, defeat is disastrous, and this is an
enormous defeat for Al Qaeda. The group's political fortunes were
moribund following the rapid overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan,
and were revived only by the ill-considered invasion of Iraq, which
gave it a new battleground, rationalization and lease on life for a
number of years.
The loss of this vital symbolic figure, no
matter how impotent he had become in reality, will undoubtedly be
another significant blow to Salafist-Jihadist ideology. They may have
gained a martyr, but they've lost the image of a defiant leader able to
combat the Soviet Union and America alike with impunity. His deputy,
the Egyptian fanatic Ayman Zawahiri, lacks the charismatic appeal bin
Laden had among certain extremists, and he has no apparent successor.
On the other hand, Lawrence Kaplan warns against the American inclination to invest too much meaning into the death of any single bogeyman:
From Kaiser Wilhelm on, and for reasons that respond to needs
unrelated to national security as such, we've always pinned the blame
(and credit) for mass movements on their most visible spokesmen. Tojo,
Milosevic, Saddam, and, on the flipside, Yeltsin or Aristide--George Kennan
was right to lament the power of the bogeyman in American foreign
policy. The persistence of nasty and divisive political impulses runs
counter to our progress narrative, and also tends to be more difficult
to explain. Rather, in accounting for the obduracy of certain countries
and ideologies, presidents have advanced the proposition that, were it
not for a handful of men like Saddam Hussein, the late Mohamed Farah
Aideed, and Osama bin Laden, their supporters would eagerly sign on to
the American program. "You think the Germans would have perpetrated the
Holocaust on their own without Hitler?" President Clinton asked in reference to the bestial conduct of the Serbs in Kosovo. "Political leaders do this kind of thing."
Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.
His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.
In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.