An era came to an end this week. With the death of Osama Bin Laden at the hands of the U.S. Navy Seals, in a masterfully executed operation, the mastermind of the attacks of September 11, 2001 had finally been hunted down, and a measure of justice for the deaths of 3,000 innocent Americans had been won at long last. Al Qaeda has been decapitated, and the darkest threat to the safety and security of the U.S.—and the rest of the West—yet further weakened. Bin Laden’s death does not spell the end of Islamist terrorism, or of potential threats to the United States. Instead, it provides a marker to set off an ending—not the ending, but maybe an ending—to the era that began on September 11. With Bin Laden vanquished, we can state that while terrorism, as a tactic, can never be eradicated, the war on terror is over, and we won.
Much of the speculation in the United States has revolved around the potential political benefit for President Obama in the wake of Bin Laden’s death. While it is true that the president will undoubtedly be lifted in the polls by the elimination of Bin Laden, the truest measure of this monumental achievement will likely be in its effect on America’s still-fragile psyche. Americans have spent the last decade in shock, pinwheeling from grief to anxiety to anger in their response to the unprecedented attacks on New York and Washington. Perhaps now, with the death of the man responsible for those attacks, Americans can now begin to lay those weary ghosts to rest.