In an unexpected speech Sunday evening, President Obama announced US special forces have killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda whose responsible for the deaths of 2,974 individuals on September 11th, 2001, and thousands of others around the world. Families who have lost relatives to bin Laden’s organization finally capture a sense of closure and justice, albeit a bittersweet justice.
Special forces found bin Laden during a covert operation on May 1st in Abbottabad, Pakistan, which is only about thirty miles northeast (ninety miles by road) of the Pakistani capital Islamabad. A firefight occurred at a residence and resulted without any American casualties, as well as the death of bin Laden. US forces took custody of bin Laden’s corpse to confirm his identity with DNA testing and later buried him at sea.
The US military began searching for bin Laden in 1998, when former President Clinton ordered the CIA to use deadly force if necessary to apprehend bin Laden after the bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed hundreds. As a result, bin Laden evaded an international manhunt for over a decade, but bin Laden’s inevitable fate has finally come.
After President Obama addressed the nation, hundreds rallied outside both the White House and the World Trade Center Plaza. Bin Laden’s death is the most celebrated death in recent history, with a comparison including none other than Adolf Hitler, whose death also led to international jubilation in 1945. As President Obama mentioned in his speech, which you can view below, bin Laden’s death is momentous and is the most significant achievement thus far in the effort to defeat al-Qaeda.
Meanwhile, significant national security accomplishments such as this occasion typically result with a boost to a president’s approval rating. For instance, as the Gulf War began in 1991, George H.W. Bush received an 18% boost (from 64% to 82%) to his approval rating in a single week. National security accomplishments fall within valence issues, which are issues where most individuals share the same opinion, such as crime. With a large portion of the electorate celebrating bin Laden’s death, this will likely provide a boost to Obama’s approval rating, which is currently at 46%, according to Gallup.
However, despite Obama’s approval rating likely receiving a boost over the next couple of weeks, historical trends suggest this boost from a national defense achievement will not sustain itself. In other words, Obama’s approval rating will likely increase over the next couple of weeks, but a majority of this boost will not stick around.
Regardless of these likely implications for presidential approval ratings, others worry the death of bin Laden may bring much more grave implications, such as retaliatory attacks from al-Qaeda. Even though the manhunt for bin Laden is over, the war against terrorism continues.