By James Dohnert

Before Osama bin Laden was killed, America went through two presidents, got into three wars, and experienced the worst economic downturn since the great depression. And on a day herald as a good one by our president, some people may wonder what does the death of the most despised man in the Western World really mean? Does it mean the death of al Qaida? The end of ill will toward the United States? Or is it simply closure for a country that is still scarred by what happened on September 11th, 2001?

The good news is that with the death of bin Laden goes a central figure of al-Qaida’s leadership. "He was the linchpin of Al-Qaeda. Without him, al Qaeda could fracture,” said CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank. Bin Laden was not only the face of al-Qaida, he was also one of the foremost strategists for the terrorist organization. “Bin Laden really did run al Qaeda with a tight grip. The ultimate decision was always his,” analyst Cruickshank continued.

So with the death of the most wanted terrorist in the world comes the potential death of al Qaida as a centralized terrorist organization. Of course, the bad news is that terrorism doesn’t die with one man. The ideas and feelings that lead to terrorist acts will still live on. Osama bin Laden still has admirers in various parts of the world. His death might be used as a rallying cry for extremists looking for a martyr. And, as last week's foiled terrorist attack in Germany demonstrates, a threat still exists.

Sadly, the concept of terrorism existed before Osama bin Laden and will continue now that he’s gone. The fear won’t die with him, but a chapter in American history may have. Following the twin towers attacks, it was all but guaranteed that today would come. And it may have taken two presidents, three wars, and the worst economic downturn since the great depression before it did, but it did come. Justice, for lack of a better word, was given, and it's one less thing to weigh heavy on the collective national psyche.

What do you think was accomplished with the death of Osama bin Laden? Has it brought closure to the country? Or is it just a small step in a bigger issue?  Add your comments below or on our Facebook page. And be sure to check out upcoming Commonwealth Club events on the topic for more insight into the discussion.

May 6 2011 - 12:00pm
Conversations with Terrorists: Their Views on Politics, Violence and Empire
Join veteran journalist Reese Erlich for an in-depth discussion focusing on the U.S.-led war on terrorism. 

May 16 2011 - 12:00pm
Foundations for Peace in the Middle East
Meet with Akiva Tor, Israel's consul general for the Pacific Northwest, for a conversation on the conditions required for advancing peace in the Middle East.