In halting the global war on terror and engaging with Islamist political parties, Obama has helped create a world that the terrorist leader would hardly recognize.
If Osama bin Laden were still alive today, one year after he was killed in a U.S. raid, he would hardly recognize the world he knew. Nor would he see the supposed "clash of civilizations" that he tried so hard to foment over two decades of violent jihad. Instead bin Laden would see Islamist radicals on the election stump in emerging governments in Egypt and Tunisia, pledging cooperation with senior U.S. officials, and even meeting with a few neocons in Washington. He would see a U.S. administration that, having killed most of bin Laden's confederates, is now ready to move into a post-al-Qaida era and engage with Islamist politicians as long as they renounce violence and terrorism. He would see Islamist parties that are passionately pursuing power and vested interests within their own countries (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia) rather than against bin Laden's old "far enemy," the United States.
But there is one small subsection of the world bin Laden would recognize well, just as if nothing had changed. He would feel happily at home among some of his dependable (if inadvertent) allies in the United States: right-wing conservatives such as syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, who seem certain that their (and bin Laden's) cherished "war on terror" will go on forever. I discovered this after I wrote an article last week quoting a State Department official as saying "the war on terror is over." Now, to be clear, this idea has effectively been President Obama's policy since 2009, when he discarded George W. Bush's old phrase, "global war on terror," or GWOT, and sensibly refocused America's attention on eliminating al-Qaida, which is still the only enemy that has attacked us since 9/11.