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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bin Laden's Execution and the Slippery Libyan Slope : One Step Up and Two Steps Back ?

President Obama is to be congratulated. He showed fortitude in ordering the execution of Bin Laden--something that President Clinton tragically lacked---and intelligence with respect to the mode of execution.

Clearly the War on Terror is not at an end.

Also, there is much work left to do in Afghanistan. But must the U.S. continue to shoulder the task of nation-building there ?

Surveying the region, we see a Pakistan, our most important and close ally in this region, that is demonstrably ineffectual, unstable, duplicitous. And Pakistan is playing its own game in Afghanistan, as is Iran.  These two states have conflicting interests and so are destined to clash the minute the U.S. departs the area. Which means the sooner we do, the sooner we will be in a position to play the Great Game with house money.

Meantime, the lackluster performance and half-hearted response of most of our NATO allies to the 9/11 attack--an attack  on the leader of the alliance and the guarantor of their freedom since the defeat of  the Axis Powers--makes one wonder whether the U.S. should also re-assess its military involvement, not merely in the Middle East and Central Asia, but in Europe overall.  The Europeans' short-sightedness and ineptitude --especially Helmut Kohl's-- helped bring about the Balkan Wars of the 1990's and obliged the U.S. to intervene, to clean their mess up.  For several decades now,  we've been footing the actual costs of Europe's defense. I say it's time Europe picked up that tab.         

And speaking of picking up tabs.. . Once President Obama stated that Gadhaafi must go,  he committed the U.S. to an unlimited military intervention. Why ? After the President's careless statement,  Gadhaafi and his supporters concluded they had no choice but to fight to the bitter end. That much, if not already clear, has been underscored by the recent collapse of Turkey's attempts at mediation, which I prefer to view as maladroit,  rather than insincere.

For intriguing perspectives on the U.S.-Pak relationship, the role (or non-role) of the Paks in Bin Laden's execution, and its possible consequences for both countries as well as Afghanistan, check out Hasnain Kazim's piece in DER SPIEGEL, as well as Brahma Chellaney's and Mujib Mashal's articles on Al-Jazeera online.

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