When Dorothy’s house fell on the witch in the Wizard of Oz, it was an immediate cause for rejoicing. The munchkins twirled in a rousing song, “Ding, Dong the Witch is dead …” Finally, finally the evil one got what she deserved. The spoils, the ruby red slippers, passed on to the house rider, Dorothy. Before you know it, however, the unintended consequence appeared – another witch, the sister of the first and twice as bad, fueled as she was with rage.
The house of the CIA has now fallen on Osama Bin Laden. Ding, Dong. Crowds of American munchkins are gathering, chanting, singing because the wicked witch is dead. It feels good because the architect of 9/11 has received his due. The elusive one who evaded the justice so many desired for him finally meets a day of reckoning. But what has really happened?
A question: Do you imagine yourself safer now that Bin Laden has been eliminated, safer than when he was still alive? If so, think again. Vengeance feels good at first, but look further down the line. The end game is not nearly so comforting.
Bin Laden’s death is largely symbolic. The terrorist networks are decentralized with diverse and scattered cells. They will persist in their efforts, and only carefully coordinated intelligence and police type work that disrupts these networks will make a difference. But what now? Here is the paradox:
As long as Bin Laden was living and on the run, he was contained and his power diminished. Now that he is dead, he will become a martyr among those who need yet another concrete rationale for their cause. And we have provided exactly that. The enlisting of whole new generations of terrorists is now insured.They are the post-Bin Laden generation, ever so technologically equipped and savvy, with a martyr for their banner.
Right now, as the pictures of America-wide celebrations are broadcast across the world, into every Arab street, we are insuring a resurgence of intense activity against the United States. As our chant, “Justice is finally done,” streams out in the media world, they are plotting, even now, how their justice for this American gloating will be accomplished.
It feels good when the house falls on the wicked witch. But the story is far from over. We are not safer now than before Bin Laden’s life was snuffed out. We are less so. Because the witch’s sister is on the way, and she is pissed.