Americans deserve to feel excitement and a sense of closure with the death of Osama Bin Laden. But the closure must be viewed as the closing of one chapter of the book, not the entire book itself.
We owe a debt of gratitude to our military, intelligence, and law enforcement officials who have doggedly pursued Osama Bin Laden for well over a decade. Our Navy SEALS have once again made us proud with their skilled execution of the mission that brought Bin Laden to his death.
But the celebration must be done with caution, not blind elation.
I experienced the natural satisfaction of learning of Bin Laden’s death and the American success in being the sole leader of this mission. Yet I also experience a great deal of nervousness in worrying that so many Americans may believe we are now free from a major threat of terrorism.
The intelligence and other protective officials almost immediately issued warnings of heightened alert for automatic attacks that could be triggered as a result of Bin Laden’s death. While this heightened attention will likely be visible in the days after his death, we also know terrorists are skilled at waiting until THEY are ready to attack — not attacking when WE think they will do so.
Bin Laden’s death is clearly an important symbolic victory. But Americans need not let their guard down. In fact, some suggest we should be concerned more now than ever.
The increased radicalization of individuals within the U.S. is believed to post a growing threat of domestic, homegrown terrorism. The U.S. Attorney General and the Homeland Security Secretary have both testified to Congress that this concern is a one of the most pressing threats to our homeland security.
In fact, a few weeks ago I was asked by the FBI to participate in a “futures” working group looking at the potential nexus of street gangs, domestic and international terrorism, and the use of weapons of mass destruction. While I was unable to attend my “Why and why now?” curiosity reinforced to me that federal officials feel these threats are real.
How much influence Osama Bin Laden currently played in day-to-day operations of active terror operations has been debated. Was he is highly symbolic and inspirational figure? Absolutely. But was he leading hands-on coordination of all of the various terror groups? It is debatable.
Al-Queda groups like Al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula pose an active threat. Radicalized individuals, groups, and sole actors pose substantial threats as well.
Yes, we should celebrate the death of Bin Laden. But we do so with caution, not blind elation.
If we fail to continue our vigilance, we will only set ourselves up for missing the next planned major attack. But if we remain vigilant, we may have even more cause for celebration.
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