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Strategic sources explain impact of Bin Laden’s death

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May 2, 2011

The death of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden by U.S. forces over the weekend alters the political landscape of the Middle East and the war on terrorism. Or does it? SMU experts can provide insight into the meaning of Bin Laden’s death, public reaction and America’s relationship with that volatile part of the world.


Seyom BrownInternationally recognized national security expert Seyom Brown is Director of Studies at SMU’s Tower Center.  His five-decade career in national security has taken him from the State Department to policy think tanks to academia. His latest book is “Higher Realism: A New Foreign Policy for the United States.” Brown is available at 214-768-3734 or Brown is available for live or taped interview in the SMU News Broadcast Studio.

“Putting it in the larger campaign against al Qaeda, the decapitation of the terrorist movement comes at a time of its substantial decentralization and global dispersal; thus the danger of further terrorist attacks is not necessarily suddenly reduced.  Great vigilance against retaliatory revenge attacks is especially needed over the next weeks and months.”  — Seyom Brown.

See a video video icon of Seyom Brown talking with Fox 4 News about the future of Libya. 


Robert HuntIslam expert and director of Global Theological Education at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology, Robert Hunt is the author of several publications on the Muslim faith, including What Every Christian Should Know About Muslim Ideals. He believes “the U.S. followed appropriate Muslim burial guidelines” in giving Osama bin Laden a burial at sea. He is available at or by calling 214-768-1374. He is available for live or taped interview in the SMU News Broadcast Studio.

Such burials “are done only in extraordinary situations, usually when someone has died aboard a ship and there is not enough time to get back to land,” he says. But with bin Laden’s native Saudi Arabia refusing his remains, the process of gaining approval from Pakistan or Afghanistan could have further delayed his burial, especially if either country also chose not to accept him. “If a person cannot be guaranteed a burial in the ground in time, a burial at sea can be done.” Robert Hunt.


Robert JordanFormer U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan is Diplomat in Residence at SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies.  He took over in Saudi Arabia four weeks after 9-11.

Jordan, a partner with Baker Botts in Abu Dhabi, is available for comment at 214-695-4195 or

“To be sure, Bin Laden remained a strong symbol and recruiter for those wishing to wage jihad on the West and its allies… It is premature to proclaim that we have seen the end of death in the streets, as events in Libya and Syria demonstrate. But Bin Laden’s version of jihad has thus far been rejected in Cairo, Tunis, and other corners of the Arab world.” — Robert Jordan

See a video video icon of Robert Jordan talking about the current upheaval in the Middle East.


Jeremy McManesJeremy McManes, a member of the Navy Reserve, is a graduate student in the Cox School of Business MBA program. In 2008 in Iraq’s Anbar Province, he served with a Naval Construction Battalion as a logistics manager, supporting Marines in building housing and military bases. McManes, who continues to serve at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, says he has mixed feelings about the death of Osama bin Laden. An interview with him can be arranged through Sarah Hanan at 214-768-7622 or

“Osama bin Laden’s death means a lot of things. We’re in Afghanistan because of Osama; we’re in Iraq because of Osama. I’ve got friends there and friends who could go back. I could go back. Osama’s death means something has been accomplished, and that means a lot.

“At the same time, Osama’s death is not going to change things. Unfortunately there’s always going to be someone who wants to take Osama bin Laden’s place. My concern is that we as a country are going to question why we’re in Afghanistan, but if we were to leave, we’d create the same power vacuum that allowed Osama to come into existence.”


Matthew WilsonAn expert in American politics and religion, Matthew Wilson is associate professor of political science in SMU’s Dedman College. He says the news of Osama bin Laden’s death will result in only a short-term bump in the polls for President Obama. He is available at or 214-768-4054.

“Eighteen months from now, the focus will be much more on economic and fiscal issues than on anything that happened in Pakistan.  Nothing fundamental has changed for President Obama in terms of the issues that are likely to matter most in 2012. One thing this news does do, however, is connect Obama for the first time with a ‘rah-rah” patriotic moment that resonates in middle America. This connection, in tandem with the demise of the ‘birther’ issue, helps to decrease the lingering perception that Obama is somehow alien to the ‘real America.’  This is likely to benefit his political standing in a more enduring way than the short-term rally effect.”


Cal JillsonOne of the nation’s foremost political experts, Cal Jillson regularly provides journalists thoughtful insight on U.S. and Texas politics. A professor of political science, he is also the author of The American Dream, and a member of the Council of Foreign Relations

“Certainly, President Bush handed off two unresolved wars and an economic collapse to his successor. Anything that takes the edge off those problems — bin Laden’s death, economic recovery, and easing out of Iraq and Afghanistan — will help President Bush’s legacy, at least at the margins.”


Rick HalperinThe news of Osama bin Laden’s death is no cause for celebration from a human rights perspective, says Rick Halperin, past chair of the board of directors of Amnesty International USA and director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program:

  • “Justice would have been to capture him and put him on trial but the order was to kill him. And I don’t ever equate killing someone with justice or joy.”
  • “We as a nation are repulsed when we see Muslims dancing over the death of Americans. Why would we think our reaction would not be seen as disgusting behavior to them? If this act created the definite end of the war on terror, that might be a time to celebrate that the spiral of violence has come to an end. But how do you celebrate when people are going to be killed today and tomorrow and for a long time to come? I’m sure more violence is coming.”
  • "The majority of people on earth do not embrace violence and this is as it should be. Instead of cheering the death of Osama bin Laden, it would be more helpful to concentrate our efforts on moving this nation in particular, and the world in general, toward solutions that end violence and promote justice, human rights and human dignity.”

Halperin continues as a member of Amnesty International USA. He served on the board of directors for several organizations, including the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Human Rights Initiative, Capital Punishment Investigation and Education Services, Jefferson-Titus Refugee Foundation, Center for Survivors of Torture and the International Rescue Committee.


A scholar of South Asian history and native of Pakistan, A. Azfar Moin is an assistant professor in SMU’s Clements Department of History in Dedman College. Moin, who is fluent in Urdu, has conducted extensive research in his homeland and has published works on South Asian and Islamic history. An interview with him can be arranged through Sarah Hanan at 214-768-7622 or contact him directly at

“Bin Laden is a mythical figure for Americans and Pakistanis alike, but the myth has a different history and meaning in the two countries. For Americans, he was simply a ‘bad guy’ who had to be ‘smoked out.’ But many in Pakistan remember the 1980s, when the U.S. supplied funds and arms to men like him and praised them as ‘crusaders’ against godless Communists. In the euphoria over Osama’s end, it is easy to forget the impact of the proxy war between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. in the region. It was this war that created social and political anarchy, which, in turn, gave birth to pathological groups like Al Qaeda. While those conditions persist, so will these groups.”


Sabri AtesA scholar of Iranian and Turkish history, Sabri Ates is an assistant professor in SMU’s Clements Department of History in Dedman College. A native of Turkey, Ates has published works on the Ottoman Empire and Iran, and teaches courses on Islamic history. An interview with him can be arranged through Sarah Hanan at 214-768-7622 or contact him directly at

“Bin Laden and his organization had declared war not only on the United States but also on many Muslim countries, yet the recent events in the Middle East clearly demonstrated that his message had been rejected by the masses. To make his death matter, Washington should turn this into an opportunity and start a new campaign for the hearts and minds of the Muslims, strongly emphasizing its long-standing policy that it is not at war with Islam but with those who hijacked the message of Islam for their political purposes.”


SMU student Christina Rancke lost her father on September 11, 2001. A. Todd Rancke was only 42 when he was killed at work the 104th floor of the South Tower, where he served as managing director of the financial firm Sandler O'Neill & Partners. An interview with her can be arranged though Denise Gee at 214-768-7658 or She is available for live or taped interview in the SMU News Broadcast Studio.

After the news of bin Laden’s death, she is “more relieved than happy,” she says. “At the time I heard about it, I felt more of an overwhelming relief — mainly that he’d been found,” says the second-year undergraduate student working toward a degree in corporate communications. Her extended family shared the news through numerous telephone calls, e-mails and texts that preceded and followed President Obama’s official statement. “We’re definitely not celebrating, though. We’d never celebrate the death of individual. Especially since nothing can ever bring my father back.” Rancke is helping plan SMU’s 10th anniversary 9-11 commemoration with SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Policy.

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