Foreign Policy Blogs

Bin Laden Killing Fallout

I’d like to highlight three significant effects of the bin Laden killing.  First, as I noted last week, some people view the operation as precedential.  The first one I caught was from Knesset member, Shaul Mofaz, who took the opportunity to call for similar strikes on Hamas leaders.  Additionally, as David Karl of the FPA India blog noted last week, some in India are suggesting India could and should take similar actions.  This includes India’s Air Chief Marshall, who asserted that “India has the capability” to undertake such an operation.  But, as David notes, in actuality, India is unlikely to actually follow through.  (See a similar argument in the Wall Street Journal.)  According to White House Press Secretary, James Carney, Obama reserves the right to undertake a similar attack in the future.  Glenn Greenwald joins me in expressing concerned about the precedent:

Once you embrace the bin Laden Exception, how does it stay confined to him? Isn’t it necessarily the case that you’re endorsing the right of the U.S. Government to treat any top-level Terrorists in similar fashion? Again, this isn’t an argument that the bin Laden killing was illegal; it very well may have been legal, depending on the facts. But if we just cheer for this without caring about those facts, isn’t it clear that we’re endorsing a dangerous unfettered power…

Second, Pakistan views the operation as a “violation of sovereignty,” to quote Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Salman Bashir.  Some lawmakers in Pakistan called for President Zardari and others to resign due to the “great violation of our sovereignty,” as former Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, put it.

While these two points weigh against the wisdom of the killing, a third weighs in favor of it.  As Juan Cole noted over the weekend, some analysts think, in the wake of the bin Laden killing, that the Taliban may sever its ties with al Qaeda, making a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan more likely.  Additionally, as Cole also notes, there are reports that Taliban insurgents are fleeing the province of Qunduz.  So perhaps, despite the precedential issues and the Pakistan tension issues, there might just be tangible strategic gains that arise from the bin Laden killing.