If the real world were like the "Wizard of Oz," then killing Osama bin Laden would be like melting the Wicked Witch of the West, and all the munchkins would be free. But it isn't and we aren't.
Yet some insist, Oz-like, that now that bin Laden is dead, the war is done. In its new cover story, the widely read National Journal explains that the war "as an organizing principle" for American foreign policy "has ended." A new era, we are meant to understand, has begun: It will be organized around the principle of the Arab Spring.
This orderly martialing of foreign policy into the pre- and post-Osama eras betrays a deep misunderstanding of the battle in which we are still engaged. Bin Laden was a potent emblem of the enemy, but not its sole heart or brain. The enemy continues to fight in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. That enemy exploits physical space where it can and ideological space throughout the Muslim world — space created by autocrats bent on dividing the Middle East into Islamists and secular tyrants. Many forced to flip a coin were willing to try the former. But as we are learning this Arab Spring, the choice is false.
And that is why we have partners in the war we are still fighting, which, like any, cannot be won by military means alone. Those partners are the young people in the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen. If their demands are any indication, they don't seek a new caliphate, as bin Ladenists would hope. They're looking for the representative democracy and economic opportunity that al-Qaeda has inveighed against.
The long war on terrorism — or whatever you want to call it — will be won when our military and all those in the streets of the Middle East have secured the terrain we are fighting on for the only kind of stability that lasts: stability rooted in freedom.
Danielle Pletka is vice president of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at AEI