After bin Laden, the promise of a new age

Paul Evans

By Paul Evans of Monmouth, Oregon. Paul is a former senior policy advisor to Governor Ted Kulongoski for emergency management, military, and veterans' affairs. Paul is the former mayor of Monmouth, Oregon, and a veteran of Afghanistan, Iraq, and military operations in Central/South America, Europe, and Southwest Asia. Previously, he contributed "Sharing the cost of 9-1-1 services".

Though weathered and worn, the U.S. is healthier than it was a week ago. Our heartbeat is a little stronger, our step a little more sure. Whatever the mechanics of the raid in Abbottabad, the enduring truth is that a scourge has been ended. Al Qaeda may well continue, but it will never be the same. Osama bin Laden, the living symbol for extremists seeking global revival of a radical theocracy is gone.

For a time Al Qaeda was a vessel of misplaced hope: desperate people found common cause within its militant fundamentalism. Hollow promises of an ordered religious society provided a few impoverished, powerless people something to believe in.

Circumstances change.

The ongoing revolutions throughout the Middle East offer a competing vision to Al Qaeda – and to Osama bin Laden. There is a new breeze blowing throughout the region. Democracy is taking root in the imaginations of people learning the power of self-government. And for the masses now engaged in spreading freedom, a return to the oppression of a theocratic state may well have lost its taste.

This new generation assessed the available options for reform and has chosen a different, less violent, path. In a season, Al Qaeda became obsolete; its presence will likely continue to echo for some time, but it will never recover.

Ironically, cellular communications and social networking – fruits of a capitalistic, technological modernity Osama so despised – are the tools being used to break the bonds of tyrannical regimes who have long maintained power through control of information and state sponsored terror.

Day by day, these revolutionaries become more powerful. The juxtaposition of the arrival of democratic reform and the departure of Osama bin Laden is not lost on us. It is a sublime convergence that has stirred our souls. Americans are now experiencing a catharsis: we are reconciling conscience and idealism. We remember the lessons of Mayberry, the opportunities of Horatio Alger, the necessity of Shane – and cling to the goodness of Mr. Smith.

But lately, our idealism has been shaken. Our sense of justice demanded the capture or killing of the symbol that stood against everything we stand for. Our hearts and minds could not reconcile the sheer madness of a world where Osama bin Laden prospered.

America is always resilient: in the shadow the 9/11 attacks we picked ourselves up and went to work. We knew the world had changed, but we struggled to adjust. We spent much of the past decade on autopilot. The departure of Osama bin Laden allows us to move forward and renew our faith in the America we can become. It is time once again for all Americans to come together and set our sights onto new horizons.

For America, with all its flaws, is still the last-best hope for a multicultural democratic Republic. Last Sunday, the world shifted again – and with this moment comes the promise of a new age.

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    Thank you, Paul. Excellent essay and analysis. The physical death of Bin Laden also parallels the death of the myth of Al Qaeda as defender and champion of the Muslim world. The real heroes of the dignity and rights of Muslim people are the young people putting their bodies and ideas on the line and on the streets of the Middle East and North Africa, not in the pursuit of a mythical past that never existed, but in favor of a hopeful future for themselves and their children, a future that upholds their rights and worth as human beings and their future to realize their potential. These young people are the ones who are defeating the ideology of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Bin Laden died, a vain narcissist, preoccupied with his image and his comfort, while young men and women stand up to tanks and thugs to create a future for themselves and their nation.

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      Exactly so. This piece by Paul Evans, as does you comment, echo a central point in apiece that Professor Juan Cole wort early last week, about how Al Qaeda is a dinosaur from a lost cold-war era. The Arab spring, while still ongoing and less than certain an outcome in many places, make manifest the lie and extinct ideological false promises of a medieval ideology that never was viable in the 21st century.

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