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Not Just a Symbolic Victory

Now that Osama bin Laden is safely dead, Peter Beinart has declared an end to the war on terror: “[W]e have more to be grateful for than this one villain’s demise. We must give thanks for something broader: The war on terror is over,” he writes at the Daily Beast.

According to Beinart, bin Laden’s death is largely a symbolic victory. The main benefit, he writes, is that we can now cast aside all of those clunky Bush-era war on terror policies that have been “a mistake from the start.”

But as Charles Krauthammer points out at the Washington Post today, this so-called “mistake” was exactly what led to bin Laden in the first place:

The bin Laden operation is the perfect vindication of the war on terror. It was made possible precisely by the vast, warlike infrastructure that the Bush administration created post-9/11, a fierce regime of capture and interrogation, of dropped bombs and commando strikes.

We found bin Laden precisely because of the back-site prisons, the enhanced interrogation techniques, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that people like Beinart have spent years opposing. Bin Laden’s death isn’t just a symbolic victory; it will save lives. The trove of data recovered from his home computers has already helped officials uncover one potential terrorist attack—and that’s just the information that’s been leaked to the media. Possible al Qaeda collaborators in the Pakistani intelligence agency are also being sought out. It’s clear that the war on terror is far from over. And it’s a testament to the success of our counterterrorism policies that Beinart appears to believe it’s no longer a top concern.


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