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Political Physics: Bin Laden’s Death and the Hydra Effect

A little over a year ago, I went to see Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.  The film, loosely based on the Lightning Thief a novel by Rick Riordan, is about a kid who discovers that he is a half-blood or a child of a human and a Greek god. After a summer training session with other demigods and Chiron the centaur, he sets off on a cross-country quest to LA with his friend Grover the faun and Annabeth, a child of Athena, to recover Zeus’ lost thunderbolt and stop a war between the gods.  There is this one scene in which Percy and his friends are at the Parthenon in Nashville searching for one of three pearls that will give them access to the Underworld.  They find the pearl in a statue of Athena but are then confronted by the Hydra.  According to Wikipedia, “in Greek mythology the Hydra was an ancient nameless serpent-like chthonic water beast that possessed many heads…and for each head cut off it grew two more.”  Naturally, Percy tries to slay the Hydra by chopping off one of its heads.

The head, which is one of five (in a later scene 10), falls off but two heads grow back in its place.  Percy had no idea what he was doing when he swung his sword at the Hydra.  And perhaps neither did we when our military forces raided a compound in Pakistan and killed Osama Bin Laden.

According to the Los Angeles Times, there were celebrations of Bin Laden’s death in New York, in front of the White House, in Lawrence, Kansas, and in towns and cities across America.  “And the death of Osama bin Laden [was celebrated] in a place that didn’t exist when the 9/11 attacks took place – Facebook.  Dozens of ‘Osama bin Laden is Dead’ Facebook pages sprung up.”  And these celebrations seem to mirror a general sentiment of relief (and in some cases joy) at the news of Bin laden’s death.  In a recent NBC poll, “80 percent of Americans said it was the right decision to kill the al Qaeda leader versus captur[ing] him.”  Even President Obama, in a recent 60 Minutes interview, “admitted he didn’t lose any sleep over the possibility of taking out Osama bin Laden.  Justice was done.  And I think that anyone who would question that the perpetrator of mass murder on American soil didn’t deserve what he got needs to have their head examined.”

Wanted PosterHere’s the thing.  In extreme circumstances I believe that I would be an eye for eye kind of gal.  For example, if someone I loved was taken away from me I might go after the person who was responsible and seek my own sense of justice.  So I can see how families who suffered loss on 9/11 may feel relief and even that justice was done.  Perhaps it was.  But now what?

See that is what I fear?  Now what?  Bin Laden’s death has not stemmed the tide that is al Qaeda.  And in fact, what we may end up with is something far worse.  A now decentralized (there are those multiple heads) terrorist organization that has a martyr to point to … does that make them less dangerous or more dangerous?  I mean the threats have already begun.  The following was from a statement issued by al-Qaeda, “The blood of the holy warrior sheik, Osama bin Laden, God bless him, is too precious to us and to all Muslims to go in vain.  We will remain, God willing, a curse chasing the Americans and their agents, following them outside and inside their countries.  Soon, God willing, their happiness will turn to sadness, their blood will be mingled with their tears.”

Now according to counter-terrorism, intelligence experts, there is nothing to be worried about.  According to MSNBC.Com, “a Western intelligence official said no concrete threat has emerged so far that authorities consider credible.”  And Yahoo! News said that “al-Qaeda as an institution is unlikely to be in a position to organize a sophisticated counter-response to bin Laden’s death, at least for the time being.”

But what about tomorrow and the day afte?.

Yahoo! News also said that Bin Laden has not been in operational command for some time, so his death does not disrupt the organizational structure.  And “he could become a rallying martyr in the eyes of some extremists.”  So who’s to say that Osama Bin Laden’s death isn’t the equivalent to Percy’s first sword swing?

I am just concerned about what happens now that we’ve cut off the head of the Hydra.  Are you?