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Bin Laden Dead: Some Thoughts About Celebrating, and About the Region (updated)

Two big nights in a row for Obama – White House correspondents’ dinner followed by the bin Laden press conference.

In the TV chatter after the announcement, NBC reported that the big lead had come from Pakistani intelligence last. I passed it along in the initial version of this blog post. This morning, as I was alerted in a comment by reader “Guest,” the N.Y. Times reports that the tip-off came from a detainee at Gitmo, who gave up the pseudonym of Bin Laden’s courier a few years ago, leading to several years of hunting for the guy, who was found last August.

Assuming that the Times is better informed Monday morning than NBC was Sunday night, which seems pretty safe, this clears up two things: first, Pakistani intelligence hasn’t gotten more cooperative since Obama announced he was changing gears; if anything, relations on that front seem to be getting more strained. Second, it sounds like it wasn’t a change of policy from Bush to Obama that led to this break-through, as I had speculated last night, but the opposite: a continuation by Obama of previous Bush administration security policies.

Back to my Sunday night post: Brian Williams just interviewed one Rob Fazio, identified as someone who lost his father on 9/11. Did Fazio agree with the assessment that “the face of evil is dead”? I know people are thinking that, Fazio said, but the face I’m thinking about is my dad’s. It feels strange to be celebrating someone’s death. Next guest, former Bush-era Homeland Security director Tom Ridge, said the Special Forces “did what they had to do.” That sounds right.

There is a feeling in the air of snowballing change in the Middle East: revolution in Egypt and Tunisia, bloody deadlock in Libya, Yemen and Syria, reconciliation in the Palestinian Authority. Hard to put it all together at this point, but here is a usefully sobering analysis from the Washington Post: ‘Doomsday scenario’ if Syria fails. The gist: Syria is too big to fail. If Assad goes, it will lead not to a smooth democratic transition but to chaos that will impact the region and could even make Iraq look like a picnic. Well worth a read.

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