Bin Laden's Impact on Homeland Security and Afghanistan

Osama Bin Laden Goldblog reader Chip Pitfield writes to ask a good question:
There are lots of soft arguments about the emotional impact of this guy's death on both sides of the fray, but it would be a good thing if somebody tried to figure out, in a substantive manner, what it might really mean to all of us. I don't think we'll see airport security relax (which is the most visible evidence of ludicrous and ineffective security over-reach); I don't think this will result in a sudden withdrawal of US and Nato troops from Iraq and Afghanistan; and I don't think Bin Laden's acolytes will suddenly become more active or increasingly effective (they're presumably already doing everything they can).

I'm therefore inclined to think that this is, in purely practical terms, an event of only emotional and localized importance.

He's right about the TSA; we can expect, if anything, greater short-term security paranoia on the part of federal security officials (a justified paranoia, in my opinion). Qaeda cells, or self-radicalized jihadis, might very well try to strike in the coming days, and I don't assume that because they haven't struck they're not able to strike. Long-term, I can't predict, but as my colleague Jim Fallows has noted, the government seldom rolls back a security protocol once it is in place.

On Iraq, no, we won't wind down there faster, but in Afghanistan, the early betting is that yes, this will help speed the withdrawal of troops, if only because President Obama is in a position now to argue that a principal raison d'etre of the Afghanistan invasion is dead. Don't expect a dramatic drawdown, but if the military comes to him and offers a thousand-soldier withdrawal, you can expect him to say something like, "I think five thousand would be better."  Remember: The goal of the Afghan operation is to deny al Qaeda a foothold in the place it once dominated. Thisimplies a long-term commitment.

Long-term, the impact of this killing is enormous; I wouldn't characterize it as simply an event of emotional or localized importance. If there hadn't been a Bin Laden, there wouldn't have been a 9/11. Today marks a very important step in the war against al Qaeda. But short-term, it won't stop terrorism.