Jim Sleeper: Osama Bin Dustbin?

Roundup: Historians' Take

Jim Sleeper is a lecturer in politics at Yale University.

There's something valid in "great man" versions of history, including those focusing on the diabolically great: Without Adolph Hitler, it's unlikely that German racism, especially anti-Semitism, would have become as shattering and unspeakable as it did. Without Osama bin Laden, Islamicist terrorism probably wouldn't have become as maniacally effective and widespread as it has.

But while these men had tremendous catalytic or poisoning effects on the societies they touched, that was partly because they were channeling and intensifying dark, swift undercurrents already running in their societies. And it's partly for that reason that the damage such leaders do in harnessing such dark undercurrents outlasts their deaths.

Learning of Osama bin Laden's demise, I can't help but recall Paul Bremer III's announcing in Baghdad the capture of Saddam Hussein: "Ladies and Gentlemen, We got him!" And our troubles in Iraq were over, right?...

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