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Persistence over bin Laden may reverse Europe's image of a US in decline

In the strike on Osama bin Laden, and in the Arab spring, some analysts see hope for the end of a chapter of global violent jihad – and the possibility of a larger swing toward democratic values.

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Both British and French leaders used adaptations of the “war on terrorism” framing of the issue – which, for the most part, had been dropped in Europe after the outset of the unpopular Iraq war here.

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Bin Laden’s death is "a major event in the worldwide fight against terrorism,” said French President Nicolas Sarkozy. “Bin Laden was the promoter of an ideology of hatred and head of a terrorist organization that has killed thousands of victims … notably in Muslim countries…. For these victims, justice is done.”

Europe's muted response

 However, unlike in the US, where Americans gathered in ball parks, in Times Square, and in front of the White House for spontaneous and patriotic celebrations over the end of the FBI’s No. 1 “Most Wanted” man – Europeans have not expressed a similarly emotional response.

“No one here can understand the demonstrations of jumping outside the White House,” says Mr. Jaffrelot, who adds that “It is not our mind set. We didn’t experience the trauma [of 9/11] in the same way as Americans.”

In London and in Paris, where on Tuesday Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is scheduled to visit on a trade and energy cooperation mission, there is significant interest as to why Pakistani authorities did not know or reveal more about bin Laden’s compound, a $1 million structure of walls and barbed wire located about a half-mile from a military center whose rector is the Pakistani Army chief of staff, according to Farzana Shaikh of Chatham House in London.

US military authorities did not advise or consult Pakistan on the operation against bin Laden, which is being seen as a precaution against a possible tipoff. “I hope France engages Mr. Gilani on what ... Pakistan has been doing for the last 10 years,” said one French source. “Really.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters today about the proximity of bin Laden’s compound both to the military school, and to the capital Islamabad. He said that “the government of Pakistan will want to comment on that in due course.”

In Paris, Alain Frachon, editor of Le Monde, France's newspaper of record, linked bin Laden's death with the birth of an “Arab spring,” arguing online that “these events, which for the past six months overwhelmed the Arab world, spelled the end of the pull of radical Islam – the jihadism of bin Laden. That [Arab spring] revolt was carried out in the name of democracy and freedom, and not in the name of political Islam, of jihad, of hatred for the West, of hatred for "Crusaders and Jews," all themes dear to bin Laden.”

 “None of that rebellion’s spokesmen, in Tunis, Cairo, Damascus or in Benghazi, claimed loyalty to bin Laden or Al Qaeda," he asserted. "On the contrary ... it seems that bin Laden was already politically dead before the US operation that cost him his life in Pakistan.”

IN PICTURES: Osama bin Laden death: reaction

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