Courtesy Reuters

The fall of the Soviet Union presented a major strategic challenge to the United States. Accustomed to preparing for the singular problem posed by the Soviet Union, the United States suddenly had to grapple with asymmetrical, transnational, and decentralized threats. Osama bin Laden’s death poses a similar test for Washington. The disappearance of this central leader will fragment terrorist groups and destabilize their ranks, producing instability that may spur further violence against U.S. interests. Washington’s response to bin Laden’s death will define how the United States will adjust to this new reality -- whether it will sustain its war against terrorist networks, and, if so, which tools it will use to succeed.

Just as the Soviet Union represented an easily identifiable symbol and threat for the United States during the Cold War, bin Laden became a focal point for U.S. counterterrorism strategy after 9/11. Although he

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  • ALEXANDER GALLO is the incoming Deputy Director for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. SCOTT HELFSTEIN is the Director of Research for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. The views expressed in this article do not reflect those of the U.S. Military Academy, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
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