In all likelihood, the question on the place of Osama bin Laden in history may be too prematured a topic to be discussed right now. At the same time, we all jump to early conclusions now-a-days.

I am no exception, however with a disclaimer that deals with disruptive forces or elements, and says (slide 3):

‘We tend to overestimate the impact of disruptive forces in the short term and underestimate it in the long term’.

Can Osama bin Laden be considered as a disruptive force, to the level of Black Swan of Nicholas Taleb, when his actions would get scrutinized by future historians globally? If future historians come to a party and try to build consensus on one single person who had the most of the impact on world history over the last two to three decades in the form of a list, can Osama bin Laden be in the top two or three?

Surely there exists a possibility (in my personal view, the other name can be George W Bush, however root cause of Bush Jr. being in such a list would surely be due to Osama bin Laden).

When I looked at the obituary of Osama bin Laden in The New York Times, which definitely have been involved with this history making process since much longer compared to the emergence of Wikipedia, I was amazed by its size of six-pages and posted a tweet:

‘when was it in history, the last time and all the times, when NYT had six or more pages of obituary on a person? And when was it for non-Americans per se’?

(Going by twiter trend, two tweets are of interest: (1) @ThatEricAlper:  Osama Bin Laden‘s death the most tweeted event in history – 27,900,000 tweets in just 2 hours and 35 minutes. and (2) @AkiAnastasiou: News of Osama bin Laden‘s death on Twitter was the 2nd highest in Twitter’s history, peaking at 5,106 tweets per second http://bit.ly/luAZ2i. In today’s world, the evolution of history passes through four distinct phases of recording (1) the 1st draft of history, for the people affected by the attention deficit syndrome, gets planted in 140-characters in twitter, (2) then it gets refleted in newspaper articles, lasting for a day or at best few days, (3) next comes Wikipedia in recording and updating it on an ongoing basis for the most viewed drafts of history, and (4) finally comes the views of the learned community of historians).

Honestly I don’t have the answer on the NYT obituary question. Someone can better enlighten us on it.

Churchill stated that ‘The further backward you look, the further forward you can see’.

My reference system here is that 6-pages of NYT obituary on Osama bin Laden,  and thereby looking backward in other NYT obituaries of six or more pages, to gauge its impact going forward.

In the evening, when I had the opportunity to watch TV, I saw only this being covered in BBC. One must admit that the sampling may therefore be absurdly vague, and I must yield to that scrutiny.

My particular focus for this article comes from following two aspects:

(1)  What exact role did Osama bin Laden play in the downfall of the mighty Soviet superpower? Was it a (or even ‘the’) key and significant role, or was the collapse of the Soviets around same time was sort of inevitable anyway – without elements like Osama bin Laden and his resistance movement against the Soviets in Afghanistan?

(2) As Laden and his terrorist group al Qaeda took on the mighty U.S.A next, I particularly find this comment of his, as quoted in the NYT obituary, quite interesting:

‘Most of what we benefited from was that the myth of the superpower was destroyed... ‘

Is the above comment too early, and boastful for Osama to be extended for the U.S.A. too?

Many historians view that the superpower era died with the demise of the former U.S.S.R itself. However if one tries to compare the global influence that the U.S.A had in 1990s and compare it with that of now, and further project the trend going forward,  can the above statement on ‘the myth of the superpower’ be of any significance for the U.S.A. too, in the context of the single superpower that the U.S.A. had been over the last two decades?

Other than bleeding Soviet military, economics surely played a significant role in the fall of the former Soviet Union. The cause-effect is little complex; and the specific role this one single man, in playing a key role in the downfall of former Soviet Superpower, may therefore be insignificant on a contextual basis.

At the same time, if historians try and focus on one single man who brought the superpower Soviets down – two names come to my mind. One of Mikhail Gorbachev, and the other of Osama bin Laden. Arnold Tonybee  felt that ‘Great civilizations are not murdered. They commit suicide.’

So when historians investigate fall of the U.S.S.R, important questions for historians to answer would be – could the apparent ‘suicide‘ in any way be significantly influenced by a man named Osama bin Laden, who ‘murdered’ many of their military assets in Afghanistan?

Probably such enlightened discussions already have happened, beyond my present knowledge. The output of such research, in case there’s consensus on it, would be of interest.

The obvious next question follows – the bleeding of the U.S. military that has been happening due to 9/11, and impact of the same on the economic mess that the U.S. have landed into – is it reversible or irreversible? Present signs again may be too early to draw anything remotely conclusive.

However areas causing discomfort come from new areas – from much of the developing world, primarily from China. Significant majority of global opinion would consider China’s economic power, and even more so China’s military power, to be decades or even centuries behind the U.S.

The rarest of the minority few believe in Ramo:  ‘To measure Chinese power based on the tired rules of how many aircraft carriers she has or on per-capita GDP leads to devastating mis-measurement’.

So one may just have a pure number comparison of $90bn or so defense budget of China (whatever understated it be) with that of $660bn or so for the U.S.; and compare China’s $7500 (PPP, in nominal around $4300) per-capita-income vis-a-vis that of the U.S. at around $45k or more; without paying detailed attention on how well the defense budget is actually spent, or how sustainable that per-capita-income is with cost of living indices.

While ignoring the quality of the defense spend or the sustainability of the per-capita-income, and thereby focusing alone on the numbers, one may actually be missing the forest for the trees. The reason for China’s relevance in determining place of Osama in history comes due to the way Osama bin Laden directly fought with the two of the world superpowers (not simultaneously, one by one) since 1980s; and the major nation least affected by the bleeding of that fight happens to be the rising China, contender for such an influential role in the future world.

There have been various Forbes surveys since 9/11 that projected Osama bin Laden as one of the most influential person for many of these years. However measuring the place of Osama bin Laden through such ranks may be myopic when history records Osama bin Laden.

The real question, as of now, is to ask Michael T. Caufman and the NYT team – when did you last run a six-or-more-pages obituary for non-Americans, and for whom all since your inception? And who were the Americans who deserved a six-page obituary in your publication, since you started being a leading part of producing the first draft of history.

Finally, as a question, on where does Osama bin Laden exactly belong in history,  should better be reserved for future historians. Let’s not fall  in the trap that Craig Dobson realized, as we tend to fall in the trap regarding disruptions  – of overestimating Osama bin Laden in the short term, and underestimating him in the long term.

History is for the longer term.

I invite you to visit my blog, Wondering Man (or take a look at my book,Wondering Man, Money & Go(l)d that rightly predicted many of the economic and geopolitical crises, to the gold prices and the currency disputes).

Interestingly, my book cover page has pictures of three famous (or infamous) living persons, and four dead. Now it has five known dead faces, and two living.

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