Osama bin Laden has been killed by an American military assault. The effect on al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups’ capabilities to attack Americans will be marginal. Bin Laden has long been more of a symbol for Islamic terrorists than a strategic leader, and he will live on as a martyr to those bent on killing Americans. The biggest blow for terrorist groups will be the loss of bin Laden’s substantial funding, but terrorism is a very cheap tactic–al-Qaeda spent about half a million dollars on the 9/11 attacks, for instance–so it’s not a huge setback.
The most profound effect of bin Laden’s death will be on Americans. Since September 11, 2001, we have waged two (three?) wars in the name of stopping bin Laden’s brand of Islamic terrorism. This is as close to a clear cut victory that we are ever going to get. That also makes it out best chance of getting American soldiers out of Afghanistan. If we don’t declare victory now, we could still be reading about American soldiers trying to build a viable government in Kabul twenty years from now.
So although we’re no closer to defeating terrorism today than we were last week (because you can’t defeat a tactic), let’s say we are, and bring the boys back home.