In her remarks this morning on the killing of Osama bin Laden, Secretary of State Clinton asserted that:
History will record that bin Ladin’s death came at a time of great movements toward freedom and democracy, at a time when the people across the Middle East and North Africa are rejecting the extremist narratives and charting a path of peaceful progress based on universal rights and aspirations.
It may be a bit early to announce that people across the Middle East are rejecting extremist narratives. Dictators have been overthrown, in some cases, but it is not yet clear what will replace them. We do not know what will happen next in Egypt, Libya, and Syria, much less what History will say about it. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional hegemony will continue notwithstanding the death of bin Laden.
President Obama deserves great credit for a successful mission that involved great risk. It completes the mission President Bush announced with his “dead or alive” remark. But it is too early for celebrations (this passionate post and the erudite comments under it suggest the moral hazard involved). If the killing becomes the occasion for mistaking a tactical success for victory in a war not yet won, History will have bad things to say about our self-congratulatory rhetoric of triumph.