Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Chest-Thumping Hyperbole Needed on Left

A lot of notice has been given to the relatively grudging commendations for President Obama coming in from conservative figures like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Here's Limbaugh.

"We need to open the programme today by congratulating President Obama," Limbaugh declared on his daily syndicated radio show on Monday. "President Obama has done something extremely effective, and when he does, this needs to be pointed
out." As always with Limbaugh, his words were laden with sarcasm, poking fun at the idea that Obama single-handedly executed the mission:

Thank God for President Obama. If he had not been there, who knows what would have happened. It was only Obama who understood the need to get DNA, to prove that this was Bin Laden that we had assassinated.

And there were backhanded compliments from Limbaugh as well: "We need to never forget that President Obama deserves praise for continuing the policies established by George W Bush which led to the acquisition of this intel that led us to the enlarged hut in Pakistan that led to the assassination of Bin Laden last night."

Actually, it's unfortunate that nobody on the left is very good at the kind of chest-thumping, flag-waving hyperbole that Limbaugh would have given any kind of Republican for executing the hit on Bin Laden.

Obama deserves the hype.

The End of the Existential Threat

Fareed Zakaria is fairly interesting but gets more hype than he deserves. His spin on the death of Osama bin Laden is that al-Qaeda's "existential threat" to the West is now over.

With the death of bin Laden, the central organizing ideology that presented an existential seduction to the Muslim world and an existential threat to the Western world is damaged beyond repair. We’re left with free-lance terrorists who will, of course, be able to inflict some harm. But the Somali pirates are able to inflict harm on civilians, and that doesn’t turn them into an existential threat to the Western world. That existential threat is gone.

But al-Qaeda was never an "existential threat" to the West. Al-Qaeda was a challenger in the Middle East, but the Arab world in general does not have enough economic, scientific, military, or any other kind of power to pose an "existential threat" to the U. S. and Western Europe. The 9-11 attack was a spectacular success for al-Qaeda, but it didn't change the balance of power between the U. S. and al-Qaeda in any way. The American economic and military apparatus wasn't damaged in any substantive way. As a result, the U. S. was able to flex its muscles, unleash a wave of repression, break up most of the al-Qaeda apparatus, and begin a hunt for Osama bin Laden that was always going to end in bin Laden's death.

With bin Laden's death, it is likely that the al-Qaeda organization will be finished and that "al-Qaeda" will be mostly a name adapted by small terrorist organizations to honor themselves with the association with 9-11.

But al-Qaeda was never anything but active at the margins of the global political system.