With the recent news of the US raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan, we thought it would be interesting to hear from national security, intelligence, and counterterrorism Mavens about their impressions of the operation and the future of the War on Terror. Today we conducted an Electronic Survey to address the following questions:
- What impact will bin Laden’s death have on Americans’ safety from terrorist threats?
- Would it have been better to capture or kill bin Laden?
- How will this event impact US relations with Pakistan?
- How does this affect the future of the War on Terror, and what should be done to keep American safe going forward?
60% of respondents consider the operation “an important victory in the War on Terror.” Unfortunately, an equal percentage (60%) of respondents indicated that they believe that Osama bin Laden’s death will have no net impact on American security, while another 33% believe that the event will actually make Americans less safe due to potential retaliation from terrorist groups. Only 7% of respondents believe that his death will make Americans safer.
To Capture or to Kill
Just under half of all respondents agreed that killing bin Laden was the best possible outcome from Sunday’s operation. Another third would have preferred his capture, while the remaining experts were undecided.
Pakistan – Strained Relations, but Still a Key Ally
The presence of Osama bin Laden in a military garrison town close to the capital has created significant speculation among Americans as to the Pakistani government’s possible knowledge of his whereabouts and complicity in hiding him. Moreover, the Obama administration’s deliberate withholding of details of the upcoming raid from the Pakistani security forces has created the impression of mistrust between the two sides.
However, while our experts acknowledge that this week’s events will clearly put a strain on US-Pakistani relations, most respondents seem to believe that the relationship between the two countries is too important to both sides to sacrifice. One respondent summed it up as follows:
It is premature to asses US’ long-term relations with Pakistan a this point. However, US cannot afford to lose Pakistan as an ally in the region as much as Pakistan cannot afford to lose US’ backing (financial, strategic, etc).
Diplomacy will prevail… ISI is embarassed but that won’t kill the relationship. If relations sour it will be driven more by other politics in Pakistan or due to change in policy of US.
And another went so far as to suggest that perhaps Pakistan did assist in the operation:
…there is no verifiable evidence that Pakistan did not assist in the location of Bin Laden. This may have been unreported to allow Pakistan to save face in the region.
Still at Risk, so Stay the Course
Moving forward, the prevailing sentiment among our experts is that the United States is still at risk and needs to remain vigilant against the threat of terrorism. One Maven summed it up as follows:
The death of Osama bin Laden as an isolated act has no bearing on the safety of US citizens. The US needs to continue, and I stress continue, to enhance its counter-terrorism capabilities. The worst that can happen at this point is for the respective agencies (both civilian and military) to relax.
This notion was echoed by other respondents:
Without doubt we are at more at risk today than we were yesterday… Is terrorism preventable? The answer, sadly, is no. Nothing can prevent terrorism and we cannot “protect” citizen’s at home or abroad but there are actions that can be taken to protect a specific facility or building from a terrorist act… This should be a proactive ongoing process.
By no means are we any safer now as we we were before UBL was killed.
Continue what we are doing now — we haven’t had a major attack since 9/11.
Finally, several Mavens stressed the need to balance ever-increasing security efforts with civil liberties:
We are doing everything we can on the home front without infringing too much on the personal freedoms the American people enjoy.
On a tactical level, the US has taken appropriate steps, but it must ensure that terrorists do not achieve one of their key aims: Turning the US into a police state. Freedom comes with risk… the US should consider its options for a tactical response that does not make people feel as though they live in a “big brother” state.
Full results of the survey are available upon request. If you are interested in seeing all responses, please contact Maven.
If you are a member of the media and would like to talk to some of the experts that participated in the survey, please contact Chuck Hester at chuck-at-chuckhester-dot-com.