Nor was it Middle Eastern terrorism. Of course, there are still angry, dangerous people in Peshawar and Mogadishu, but they haven't been noticeably more effective than their Western counterparts, at least when it comes to attracting global attention. In fact, some of the most notorious terrorist incidents of the past year were in Oslo and Toulouse - the first, the shooting of a summer camp by a Norwegian fascist; the second a shooting outside a Jewish school by a young Frenchman of North African origin. Even Al Qaeda as a brand is dead, as Osama himself acknowledged: one of his last bits of advice to some Somali followers was to call themselves by a different name. Nor was it the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were precipitated by 9/11, although they have cost more than 250,000 lives and over $3.2 trillion dollars. The Home of the Brave has always had a homegrown ruthless streak. From the bombings of millions of civilians in World War II, to the coup in Iran in 1953, to the destruction of Indochina in the 1960s, and the military adventures in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, there has seldom been much that the US will not do in pursuit of what it perceives to be its interests. Great powers are like that.
No, bin Laden's most significant legacy is arguably the degree to which he led the US government to institutionalise an American jihad against terrorism that almost constitutes a new Cold War, one that has led to the building of a vast secret military and intelligence instrument that he would have appreciated - a tool that can reach almost everywhere, usually without courts or legislators to hold it back.