DU International Studies Expert Shares Insight

Written by Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4) – There. He said it.

“It is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden,” said President Obama at a ceremony bestowing The Medal of Honor on two men killed in the Korean War.

“The world is safer.”

The statement came the day after Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden. The night before he warned that the killing of bin Laden was not the end. It’s not. There’s little doubt about that.

But with a central, charismatic figure gone al Qaeda has problems.

“Hopefully we kind of cut off the head of the beast and helped to disorganize the entire network,” said one man downtown.

Osama bin Laden, 54, was a financier, a plotter, a face on al Qaeda. Ayman al-Zawahri, an Egyptian-born surgeon long believed to be al Qaeda’s No. 2, has hardly the charisma to pull together an organization that’s already splintered, hobbled by relentless pursuit and international efforts to go after its finances.

“He’s obviously the No. 2 in the so-called command structure, so I think he would be quote ‘taking over’ but I think it’s going to be difficult for al Qaeda to do what they’ve done in the past,” said said former U.S. ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill, now dean of the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. “One, because we have really, really pushed against them in all kinds of ways, including financing. Secondly, I think losing this individual Osama bin Laden is really, really going to hurt that organization.”

“I don’t think he’s quite as relevant a figure as he was some years ago,” said Hill about bin Laden.

Isolated as bin Laden was, hiding in plain sight, there was a gap in wider communications. Al Qaeda and its affiliates are spread out across the globe, with agencies like the CIA attempting to listen in.

It was bin Laden’s courier who led the United States to his door. U.S. officials are pointing to bin Laden’s relative comfort in a million dollar compound seven or eight times the size of the homes around it. There was no phone or Internet service — one clue that led them to the home.

The factions of al Qaeda are faced with big communication difficulties.

“I think it is kind of a already a kind of a franchised organization, they may take their cue but not their instructions from any kind of central organization,” said Hill.

In addition, Hill believes the cycle of history may be moving al Qaeda to the downswing.

“I think when you combine this with the fact that we’ve had a whole Arab spring where there’s been this whole look from the Arab people for the need to make changes, you notice that radical Islam has not been part of that process,” said Hill. “So I think this has been a very positive development.”

Safe without bin Laden? Doubtful. There are still tens of thousands of trained al Qaeda members.

But safer without bin Laden? It’s not a reach.

Comments (3)
  1. Geeze says:

    Its a stupid question… the answer is yes. If we knock em down one at a time .. the world becomes safer , if they don’t stop then our resolve wont stop….The US government has a $25 million bounty on Ayman al-Zawahri, 59, who’s presumed to be bin Laden’s successor – though al-Qaida has yet to make a public …Ayman al-Zawahri 2nd in command we are coming for you.

  2. druid0621 says:

    No, we’re not safer. But that’s not really the issue. He murdered thousands of people, and has reaped what he sowed. It also shows the others that they are not immune. Like the Israelis hunting Nazi war criminals, we will find them and we will kill them. We need to be much tougher with our enemies, and this is a very good start.

  3. Thomas Maddox says:

    We are not safe at all from “terrorists” or our own government. Governmental assassination is very dangerous and unlawful.
    “Beyond the issue of whether the government is telling us the truth or pulling a fast one to save Obama’s lousy Presidency – is the issue of the lawful power of the President to order someone killed, no matter how monstrous, how dangerous or how unpopular.”( Judge Napolitano)

    Napolitano wondered could the President authorize the killing of anyone he deemed an enemy and sarcastically asked could Obama next kill Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or you?

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