Reflections on Bin Laden's Death

By Curtis Bradley
Tuesday, May 3, 2011, 10:16 AM

After giving myself a day to reflect on Bin Laden’s death, here are a few thoughts that occurred to me.

First, the killing of Bin Laden is obviously a significant development in the conflict with Al Qaeda, and a major achievement for the Obama Administration.  Even if Bin Laden was no longer significant operationally, he was an important symbolic figure for Al Qaeda and the atrocities that it committed.  His death provides a measure of justice and demonstrates the deep resolve of the United States to protect its people.  It is also a testament to the skill and bravery of the United States’ armed forces.

Second, although understandable, the jubilant cheers of “U.S.A., U.S.A.” that erupted in some cities in response to news of Bin Laden’s death are regrettable.  Bin Laden was evil and misguided, and the world is a better place without him, but this is not an Olympic hockey match.  The taking of human life, even when justified, is serious business.  I am not a Catholic, but I thought the Vatican captured the right sentiment in stating:  “Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace.”  I blogged about a related point recently here.

Third, Bin Laden’s death does not end either the conflict with Al Qaeda or the struggle against terrorism.  Nevertheless, it might serve as a useful marker to begin thinking about a new phase of how the United States addresses the problem of terrorism, including the legal framework that it employs.  For example, Bin Laden’s death makes it even more apparent, in my view, that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) is outdated, at least as a basis for the long-term detention of alleged terrorists.  I’ll have more to say about that in a subsequent post.