A FEW bullets were enough. But the shots that killed Osama bin Laden in the dead of night on May 2nd in a fortified compound not far from Islamabad came after 15 years of dogged pursuit, two long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, well over $1 trillion of spending and around 150,000 deaths. It is a heavy reckoning for one man’s life.
Barack Obama, America’s president, will justifiably savour a moment so dearly bought. A reluctant warrior in other ways, he has not wavered in hunting down the foot soldiers and commanders of al-Qaeda as well as its elusive leader. The president chose a manned assault directly on Mr bin Laden rather than an air strike on his compound, as some of his advisers wished, and it paid off. Mr Obama was lucky, but he made his luck—and he deserves the credit that will now come his way (see Lexington).
Mr Obama has been careful to warn that violent Islamism is still a dangerous force. Al-Qaeda is active, even without Mr bin Laden (see article). The alarming problems of Pakistan, Yemen and so many other places threaten to feed more violence. And yet the death of the world’s most wanted man comes just when radical Islam looks vulnerable to the changes sweeping across the Middle East and north Africa. The task now facing all those who yearn for a safer world is to isolate Mr bin Laden’s savage jihad just as surely as its creator was isolated behind his compound walls.