Perhaps surprisingly, the strongest impression on me was the gathering that night of young Americans outside the White House, complete with American flags, national anthem, and a sense of shared celebration at a demon finally conquered. It may not be unfair to imagine this happening in Western Europe, considering the ritual street mobs, often violent, of young anarchists, disaffected students, complainers about cuts in funding for education, pensions etc, all in the very heart of the welfare state with the cushiest set of paid vacations, working hours, and other perks.
How explain this? The words from our national seal -- e pluribus unum (one out of many) -- ran through my head and I suddenly had an uptick of optimism about this country despite its deep problems. Some of our newly-minted political fanatics consider compromise with political infidels a dirty word – American Taliban in my private vocabulary. I don’t want them to teach anyone in my family the workings of democracy whose give and take produced that splendid scene on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Is this the end of jihad? Of course not. Al Quaeda has decentralized and outsourced to local franchises in Yemen, Somalia, North Africa, and elsewhere, and the snake can do evil despite being headless. The point is that Bin Laden’s lunatic dream of restoring the Islamic Caliphates and getting society back to the 7th century is completely out of synch with the Arab Awakening whose demands feature not the 7th but the 21st century. Their drive toward power already shows signs of the pervasive anti-Americanism that wants an American education and communications technology, but conflates the paramount (and pro-Israeli) US with the roster of Western powers who ruled over them and then supported their greedy and often merciless tyrants.
Anyway, three cheers for an effective national security apparatus and this extraordinary triumph.