The death of Osama bin Laden is important only for its symbolic message, because Bin Laden had long ago ceased to be a figure of any operational importance and become a symbol of the Jihad. As a 'martyr' he will be just as useful. Perhaps even more so.
We have not really been fighting Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda in some time now. Instead we have been fighting the Taliban, Iranian backed militias and local affiliates of Al-Qaeda. Whatever influence the recruits his diminished organization was able to bring to the battlefield in Afghanistan achieved was limited by the centrality of the Iraqi battlefield to the global Jihad. Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda remained a threat, but more as an inspiration, than the globe-spanning network that media reports have made it out to be.
The early years of the War on Terror had cut down its financial links and its safe operational zones. The new wave of Jihad came from organizations that called themselves Al-Qaeda but had their own command centers, their own funding networks and their own agendas. Organizations that like Al-Qaeda in Iraq no longer answered to Bin Laden and did not even listen to his criticisms. Men like Zarqawi whose appetite for bloodshed made even Bin Laden seem like a reasonable moderate by comparison.
While Americans are still thinking in terms of 9/11, the terrorists themselves have already moved on to the next phase of terror. Al Qaeda might launch another long range operation intended to achieve large scale destruction and massive casualties, but the core tactics have shifted away from such expensive operations and long range operations. The attacks of September 11 were meant to position Bin Laden and Al Qaeda as the leading edge of Islam. And they achieved that goal. The only ones who can take it from them now are Shiite terrorists backed by Iran. And their focus is currently regional.
The next phase of terror is the franchise, the creation of a local affiliate to carry out ongoing terrorist attacks against Americans. "Al Qaeda in America". The Times Square Bomber, the Fort Hood Massacre and other similar arrests lead back to the goal of creating Al Qaeda in America, a terrorist network based around American Muslims. So far there is no Al Qaeda in America, in the way that there is an Al Qaeda in Iraq, or an Al Qaeda in Yemen. But that is only a matter of time.
The opening phase of the franchise features acts of terror by "lone gunmen", recruited in person, or inspired at a distance by videos and recruitment materials distributed over the internet and through Islamic bookstores and mosques. While they will and do have a high failure rate, they serve as examples for other Muslims, to abandon Western materialism, and take up the Jihad against America. Their trials become propaganda showcases inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.
Experience is the best teacher. And any terrorist who succeeds in carrying out an attack and escapes capture, becomes the centerpiece of a new terrorist organization. As an organization grows, it proves itself through acts of terror, laying claim to be the local Al-Qaeda franchise by way of the sheer body count. New recruits brought in through Islamist organizations, tested for their commitment to the Salafist worldview, routed through training camps already located in the United States, will be positioned to begin the next wave of terror.
Obama's emphasis on civilian trials plays into their hands. The likes of Faisal Shahzad, despite his failure, gets to posture and preen in court as a devout servant of Allah, quote from the Koran and pay fealty to Al Qaeda, Bin Laden and the eventual triumph of Islam. The martyrs of Islam get another member of the pantheon to paste up on posters and Adam Gadahn, aka Azzam the American, himself the son of a counterculture hippie, successfully positions Islam as the new counterculture. And if you think it isn't working, walk down the street of a liberal neighborhood and count how many keffiyahs you see. Then imagine how long it will take to replace them with Hijabs.
With Al Qaeda in America, the goal moves beyond killing Americans in order to boost their standing, to killing Americans in order to Islamize America. Terrorism began as a means of intimidating a world power whose cultural influence and military power are superior to the Ummah, but in the next phase the goal is to terrorize the non-Muslim population into becoming part of the Ummah.
Muslim tactics have not changed very much for over a thousand years, when Mohammed managed to terrorize the cosmopolitan and multicultural residents of Mecca and Medina into becoming Muslims, or accepting Muslim dominance by becoming Dhimmis. His chief tools were violence and false treaties. Violence was used to force non-Muslims to accept those treaties. And those treaties were then used to dominate and subjugate them.
Today in the West, the "Muslim extremists" carry out the violence, while the "moderate Muslims" write up the treaties for us to sign. Both the "moderates" and "extremists" are arms of the Muslim Brotherhood, and are pursuing its agenda. And both empower one another. Every terrorist attack drives cowardly Western politicians to seek to "empower" Muslim moderates in order to ward off the extremists. But the differences between the two groups are tactical, not moral or religious. Muslim terrorists routinely divide their organizations into political and armed divisions. Assuming that the political division is non-violent because it doesn't kill people personally, misses the point. It's as absurd as trying to negotiate with the enemy's propaganda division, rather than their armed forces, as if they represent two different identities, rather than two different functions.
9/11 was the best thing that ever happened to Muslim power and influence in America. It lifted them up from obscurity, gave them a hall pass to the White House and filled their coffers with money. And that was even long before Obama was elected. The idea that we need to work with Muslim moderates in order to stop violence became an idée fixe that led to craven acts of submission. No matter how extensive the proof that the so-called moderates were supporting and funding terrorism, the politicians refused to listen. They had found a solution to the problem of terrorism, and they returned to it, like a dog to its vomit.
As much as the "reasonable thinkers" will deny it, Muslim terrorism leads to Muslim political dominance. Not just in some Third World backwater with three days of running water a week, but right here in the West. After the blood is cleaned off the streets, the political leadership looks for someone to negotiate with. The time isn't right for them to negotiate with Bin Laden (though 9 years after 9/11, we're already negotiating with the Taliban) but there are plenty of local substitutes, organizations founded by Muslim Brotherhood members, funded by Saudi Arabia and treated as representatives of American or Canadian Muslims.
From Al Qaeda's perspective, their plan is on track. The West has begun to submit. For all the bombs dropped on Kandahar, the Koran is welcome in the White House. Bombs come and go, but violence is a constant part of tribal life, the fighters can retreat and then come back again. But so long as the door is open to Islam, then the game is still breaking their way. Since 9/11, America has bent over backward to accommodate Islam. Which means that Al Qaeda has succeeded.
Bin Laden may be dead. Al Qaeda's numbers are scattered. But they have accomplished far more than they could have ever dreamed of with four planes. Since then, despite the small numbers of Muslims, Islam has become a major factor in American politics. Just as Mohammed's terrorism forced local rulers to come to try and come to terms with Islam on a peaceful basis, so too Bin Laden has gotten American politicians to try and do the same thing.
Al Qaeda in America will try to build on those successes with a domestic insurgency. Once it exists as an active force, the goal will be to try and get American politicians to negotiate with it directly. The premise sounds absurd. As absurd as the idea of Israel negotiating with the PLO in the 1980's. Except today the PLO is on track to a state and in control of a sizable amount of Israel, and the controversy is over whether Israel will openly negotiate with Hamas. The next step after a terrorist group is the transition to an armed force that will try to control entire areas. After that comes the specter of a political solution.
The left has already accepted Islam as the new counterculture, the identity of the oppressed and the downtrodden, and they are learning to enjoy slumming as Muslims. Lauren Booth is a prominent example, but far from an isolated one. The elites of the left have always looked to the underclasses for diversion, whether it was drugs, farm cooperatives or revolution. Now the latest diversion is Islam. Don a Hijab, grow a beard and rant about the occupation, one of them anyway. The elites of the left are always longing to escape from their gilded cages to be "with the people", whatever they fancy the people to be. Islam is their next great escape from civilization and the need to be civilized. To toss away all morals and mores, and get down in the muck.
The left still has an appetite for violence, but no stomach for organizing it anymore. Al Qaeda in America will be the successor of the anarchists and the Weathermen. And it will continue to attract leftist radicals like Gadahn, who see in Islam, the torch of angry radicalism turning from red to green. It will not topple America, but it is part of the transition from long range attacks out of Pakistan or Germany, and into a local Muslim insurgency, fed by a stream of new converts fostered in Saudi mosques. The next wave of terror is here. And it doesn't depend on plans hatched thousands of miles away, but on your friendly neighborhood Muslim next door.