Am I the only one who woke up this morning to the news of bin Laden's death to feel distinctly underwhelmed? If it is bin Laden, and bin Laden has been running the worldwide terror network we call Al-Qaeda, is it really such a big deal? Do we really think the Islamist terrorists are all going to throw away their weapons and go back to their home towns and villages? Or will there be any number of men just waiting to carry on the work started by bin Laden?
My view has always been that we, the West, have used bin Laden and blown his image out of all proportion because we like to personalise our wars. We don't like to say that we were at war with Germany any more, it was Hitler. The worst excesses of the Soviet Union were not carried out by Russians, they were carried out by Stalin. Cambodians didn't slaughter each other by the million, that was Pol Pot. Cubans haven't oppressed Cubans over the decades, that was Castro.
It is easier to keep the population on side if we create an evil being to target rather than accept that thousands if not millions of people actually follow the doctrine and carry out the attacks and mass murders quite happily. It's especially convenient when you don't want a whole swathe of people blamed, in this case Islamists or Muslims generally. Western governments are walking a tightrope, we are fighting Islamist extremists in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but don't want to turn Western people against Muslim people in the West.
My feeling is that the death of bin Laden is largely irrelevant, he will have laid plans for this scenario years ago, things will continue as if nothing has happened. There may well be a spate of attacks to show their anger at his death, if they even publicly accpet his death, which I wouldn't do if I were an Al-Qaeda leader. There must be any number of lookalikes they can trundle out to show what a bunch of liars we in the West have in charge.
I am much more fearful of what could happen in the Middle East. When people in the West were coming over all giddy about events in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere I couldn't help a deep sense of foreboding. Helping get rid of dictators is one thing, but what fills the vacuum? Already attacks on Christians have increased in the region and the Muslim Brotherhood is reported to be organising themselves very effectively to make huge strides in public and political life in the new Egypt. The West seemed to be in some kind of mass delusional state. Baddies in the Middle East gone one day, liberal western style democracy installed the next. It doeswn't work like that, never has and never will.
Whether we accept it or not, chaos in the Middle East is what militant Islamists will thrive on and garner support from. If we in Europe end up with militant Islamist states across the Middle East, then we should be very afraid, whether bin Laden is dead or alive.