With the killing of Osama bin Laden, President Obama has achieved a much-needed conclusion to nearly ten years’ efforts to bring the mastermind of 9/11 to heel. Obama claimed to bring bin Laden ‘to justice’. But he managed this only in the sense that George Bush evoked in 2001, when he said that bin Laden was ‘Wanted – Dead or Alive’. It is just too convenient that bin Laden was shot dead and his body disposed of where no follower could ever find it. This operation was more Wild West than International Criminal Court, and like the attempted assassination of Ghaddafi it does little to demonstrate the West’s superior values. That won’t matter to most Americans, but it may register in the Muslim world. The Arab revolutions have shown that in the short-term, al-Qaeda is now largely irrelevant to real politics but in the longer term any revival of murderous Islam will claim bin Laden as a martyr. No doubt al-Qaeda will attempt revenge attacks, but while it is important to remain vigilant, it is difficult any longer to see the movement, which peaked with the London bombings of 2005, as a major threat.
(This comment was prepared for publication in the London Evening Standard.)