With frenzied gatherings near the White House and in New York’s Times Square, some have compared the death of Osama bin Laden to V-J Day.
Yet, the analogy falls apart on close examination. Though it may have the euphoria of V-J Day, the death of Osama bin Laden is hardly a watershed event in world affairs. Bin Laden’s impact has been greatly diminished since 9-11, and al Qaeda’s enjoyed increasing scorn from the Arab world over the last few years. Moreover, al Qaeda central has become largely irrelevant, with bin Laden’s organization spurring numerous “affiliates” throughout the world,
Instead, Osama bin Laden’s death might be likened to the US Olympic hockey team’s victory in Lake Placid in 1980.
Certainly, the US Olympic hockey team didn’t alter the state of the Cold War. (Not to mention, after its legendary victory over the Soviet Union, the American hockey team was still forced to face off against Finland for the gold medal) Yet, the victory over the Soviet Union was the boost that America needed during the “Carter malaise”. Then, like now, America was faced with crippling inflation, skyrocketing energy costs, and a sagging sense of pride, especially in the wake of the Vietnam War.
But while a simple hockey game was globally insignificant, some might view it as a harbinger of things to come. During the 1980s, America re-invented itself, mended its military, and bested the Soviet Union through economic might.
After ten years of war, a faltering dollar, and perennial forecasts of China’s rise, might this be the symbolic victory we need?