This morning, when I went out to get coffee and a paper after a late night celebrating the demise of Osama bin Laden, the lady behind the counter pointed to the front-page picture of the late al Qaeda leader and said: “I guess the war is finally over.” Millions of Americans are saying the same thing today. On Fox News, a Marine at Camp Pendleton said he was relieved at bin Laden’s death because “we’re all ready for this war to be over.” And on CNN last night, Peter Bergen declared: “Killing Bin Laden is the end of the war on terror. We can just sort of announce that right now.”
No, we can’t. The temptation to see this as the culmination of a long struggle is understandable. It has been nearly ten years since the attacks of September 11, 2001. The war on terror is the longest military struggle in our nation’s history, and one that is unlike any our nation faced before. In the past, America’s wars ended with a dramatic event—a surrender ceremony on the deck of the USS Missouri, or allied armies marching into Berlin. Bin Laden’s death feels to many like that kind of event. It is not. Ayman Zawahiri will not respond to the killing of Osama bin Laden by packing it in and returning to his medical practice.
Neither will Adanan Shukrijuma—an American citizen who currently holds Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s former position as al Qaeda’s operational commander—give up jihad and retire. Neither will Anwar al-Awlaki or the other leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who have twice nearly blown up planes over the United States, give up the fight and go quietly into the night. These terrorists will do everything in their power to avenge the death of their fallen leader. And they are convinced that best way they can do so is by repeating the destruction he wreaked on America. They will seek to mark tenth anniversary of 9/11 in spectacular fashion. We had better be ready.
Vice President Cheney put it well this morning when he said: “Though bin Laden is dead, the war goes on. We must remain vigilant, especially now, and we must continue to support our men and women in uniform who are fighting on the front lines of this war every day.”
So let us revel in a great military victory today. But those celebrating in Times Square and other parts of America today should remember this is not V-J Day. As we dance in the streets, the enemy is regrouping and planning the next attack. Which means that, tomorrow, we need to get back to work and stop them.
Cross-posted from NRO.