Monday, May 02, 2011

The Death of Osama bin Laden

Monday, May 02, 2011.
Osama bin Laden has reportedly been killed by a select unit of U.S. navy seals in a raid yesterday on his "luxury" compound in Abbottabad, a city deep inside Pakistan less than an hour's drive, 60 kilometers, from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. The compound was only about a mile away from a major Pakistani military academy and garrison. Coupled with the suggestion that the compound was the largest building in the community with barbed-wire-topped eighteen-foot walls, brings into serious question Pakistani claims of lack of knowledge of his whereabouts and their lack of cooperation and efforts in finding him, and their repeated claims that bin Laden was still in Afghanistan.

The fact that bin Laden's body was seized by U.S. forces after initial identification (which reportedly included DNA analysis?) and removed and buried at sea over 800 miles away (to supposedly prevent the establishment of a martyr's grave site) will, of course, have the conspiracy theorists working overtime. There are already claims by the "birthers" (Donald Trump among them) that the timing of this whole "fictitious" event was staged to draw attention away from what they describe as the "obviously forged" long-form certificate of Barrack Obama's birth in Hawaii that has been posted on the "official" White House web site.

Regardless of the "true" story, this event has been portrayed in such a way that it is obviously going to have serious geopolitical ramifications over the coming weeks and months.

It would seem very likely that there is now going to be a serious redrawing of the diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and the Pakistani government. Their blatant lack of cooperation in the U.S. war on terrorism had only been tolerated because the White House still considered that the hunt for bin Laden and al Qaida still needed Pakistan's help. The announcement that U.S. special forces raided bin Laden's compound deep inside Pakistan (the Pakistan government apparently declined a request for their forces to be involved), seized the body and disposed of it at sea themselves, is a clear signal that Pakistan's cooperation is no longer needed and the price of whatever cooperation they were giving was not worth it. They were clearly more a hindrance than a help.

It will, undoubtedly, also spell an end, or at least a serious curtailment, of U.S. financial and military aid to Pakistan, a serious blow to a regime locked in a perpetual confrontation with neighboring India, both countries with nuclear arsenals, and reeling under tremendous financial pressure after a series of devastating natural disasters.

The other obvious and very expected outcome of this event is that leaders of every western nation immediately issued a warning that this was likely to lead to a short term outbreak of new terrorist activity from al Qaida cells as well as other terrorist organizations. In other words, the fear level has been ramped up amid the euphoria surrounding bin Laden's death. Fear is good for the economy. This expectation of terrorist activity takes the focus off the still faltering global economic recovery, at least for now.

At the same time, however, this is very likely to bring on renewed and stronger calls, both in the U.S. and in other involved western nations, to withdraw troops and military support from Afghanistan. After all, those troops were only there because of al Qaida and because of the hunt for bin Laden. Now that it is clear he was not there but in Pakistan, and now that he has been "brought to justice", the supposed need for a military presence there has been eliminated. It will be argued that it is time to withdraw and focus on protecting the homeland.

To offset those calls, however, it is very likely that a new threat will be "created" to replace the current al Qaida as justification for the continued use of the military in the global war on terrorism. War is good for business and the fear engendered by war and the threat of it is good for eliciting the support and placid cooperation of the citizenry.

The other thing that will be very interesting to watch over the coming months is the middle east and Muslim countries in general, including Pakistan and Indonesia. Despite some discomfort within the Muslim world about al Qaida's tactics, there was and remains widespread support for bin Laden's message and objective of the overthrow of brutal dictatorial regimes in Muslim countries. The wave of citizen protest in Muslim countries like Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, and Syria that has dominated world media for the past several months is, at least in part, a result of that very bin Laden message. If bin Laden is going to be seen as a martyr in the Muslim world it is most likely now to be as a result of that message and objective because of its broad appeal. And it is very likely that the strength and commitment of those citizen revolts will now increase in recognition of bin Laden's martyrdom.

That martyrdom is also very likely to strengthen the anti-west and, particularly, anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world. I believe this is very likely to result in increased serious terrorist acts not on the U.S. but within those Muslim countries against oil-supply infrastructure from which U.S. imports originate.

At a time when the U.S. is quietly having to increase its imports of oil from Saudia Arabia, because of the rapidly dwindling availability of supply from Mexico due to an annual 14% decline in output from the Cantarell field, this is likely to finally wake the American people up to the realities of peak oil and make it increasingly difficult for politicians to hide, ignore and deny those realities. We will be smack up against the reality that the vast majority of the world's remaining oil reserves are within those very Muslim nations whose America-friendly dictatorial regimes are under tremendous and increasing pressure from their own citizens to step down and be replaced with "democratically elected" governments. It is unlikely that any of those replacement governments (all likely wanting to return to a more traditional Muslim society governed by Shariah law) are going to be as friendly to the U.S. or as sympathetic to its needs as the regimes they are replacing. The U.S. may now find itself increasingly hard-pressed to get the quantities of oil it needs on a day to day basis, let alone the higher volumes it would need for a serious economic recovery and increased industrial activity if it tries to repatriate production that it has shipped offshore over past decades.