Some Thoughts on the Death of Osama bin Laden

Stephen DeAngelis

May 2, 2011

Although it may seem odd for a corporate blog to comment on the death of a terrorist, there is a direct connection between Enterra Solutions®, LLC, and the events that brought Osama Bin Laden to the attention of the world. In the wake of September 11th, 2001, I recognized the need for new ways to sense, react to, and combat the threats and challenges facing global stability in the 21st century. The events of that day were very personal for me; my sister was working in the Deutsche Bank Building that was directly adjacent to the World Trade Center towers. She and her co-workers had to evacuate as her building was damaged as the World Trade center buildings were collapsing. Fortunately, she was unharmed, but the events had a profound effect on the direction of my life.

 

At that time, I met colleagues of mine who worked in the law enforcement and national security sector and asked them about their most pressing need. The answer was pretty universal, “We need a better way to connect the dots between intelligence agencies, the military and law enforcement agencies.” Eventually these discussions led me to form Enterra Solutions to leverage the high availability information integration work that my previous company had begun and to build a next-generation means of performing secure information sharing. This effort led me to build and collaborate with our national security team — Tom Barnett, Bradd Hayes, retired Air Force Generals Nolan Sklute and John Phillips, and Darrel Lowery — and to build collaborative working and Visiting Scientist relationships with the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and the Mathematical and Computational Sciences Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Ultimately, this led me and Enterra to spend more than two years in northern Iraq, attempting to build economic connectivity between Iraq and the international business and investment community during the Iraq War.

 

Enterra Solutions believes that connectivity must replace disconnectedness. Disconnected governments and businesses that fail to integrate information across traditional management silos or agencies will not succeed in the globalized environment of the 21st century. In order to build connectivity, I developed a patented best practices system diagnostic methodology entitled Enterprise Resilience Management Methodology® (ERMM). This methodology discovers critical assets, processes, and functions of complex organizations and systems as well as the enabling security, compliance, and performance rules that apply to those critical assets or systems. We then created an advanced rules-based information sharing capability for use between governmental and critical infrastructure organizations. Here data is gathered from disparate sources, situational awareness is obtained, decisions are made, actions are taken, and the results of the actions are fed back into the solution loop for knowledge enhancement. We applied this conceptual framework to our artificial intelligence (AI) – enabled knowledge base and rules-based system for continual data fusion, learning, decision making, execution, and feedback as applied to the global supply chain.

 

The governmental security and critical infrastructure arena has similar attributes to the supply chain. They both have high volume, high velocity, disparate/siloed data environments with all forms of structured and unstructured data that have critical information sharing requirements between stakeholders in order for organizational efficiency to be realized; but need segmented and secure attribute-based access control (ABAC) to data for system-wide compliance and integrity.

 

For me the memories of 9/11 remain fresh; and it seems incredible that nearly a decade has passed since that fateful morning in 2001. It was with a great deal of satisfaction, therefore, that I listened to President Obama announce that Bin Laden had been killed in a firefight in Pakistan. The world is a better place without him in it constantly trying to conceive new plans to kill innocent people and terrorize civil society. As Helene Cooper writes in The New York Times:

“The death of Mr. Bin Laden is a huge punctuation in the American-led war on terrorism. What remains to be seen is whether the death of the leader of Al Qaeda galvanizes his followers by turning him into a martyr, or whether it serves as a turning of the page in the war in Afghanistan and gives further impetus to the Obama administration to bring American troops home. … The news of the death of the leader of Al Qaeda was bound to electrify the world, particularly as it comes a full decade after American forces, under President Bush, launched their all-out assault to find the man responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.” [“Bin Laden Dead, U.S. Official Says,” 1 May 2011]

In announcing Bin Laden’s death, President Obama said, “His demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.” Although Bin Laden deserved his fate, he certainly doesn’t deserve the publicity that will fill today’s headlines and news stories. I, for one, will be remembering the innocent people he helped murder and the women he helped repress during his years in Afghanistan. I will also think about the many Muslims who have been persecuted because Bin Laden and those who think and behave like him have tried to veil their actions in religious clothing. Yusuf Islam (born Steven Demetre Georgiou, but better known by his stage name — Cat Stevens), said, “I found a religion that blended scientific reason with spiritual reality in a unifying faith far removed from the headlines of violence, destruction and terrorism.” I’m sure there are millions of Muslims who think the same way.

 

Events in the Middle East are moving at a stunning pace. Their direction, however, remains unclear. Western countries cannot decide the fate of the Muslim world. It is up to people in the region to move forward towards greater freedoms and acceptance in the world or backwards to a time when ignorance reigned and repression ruled. I, for one, believe that the Muslim world can recapture the cultural glory it once enjoyed. During those centuries, it produced great mathematicians, architects, and writers. Those are not the days that men like Bin Laden’s associates and the Taliban are trying to recreate. They are trying to disconnect the Muslim world from the rest of mankind. That would be a tragedy of enormous proportions.

 

As Enterra Solutions becomes more focused on helping to optimize supply chains, I’ve come to realize that the company has come full circle back to those early days following 9/11. Businesses (and the supply chain professionals that support them) want a global community that is economically connected rather than one that is politically isolated. Robust supply chains help to create a connected world. People, whose lives are made better as a result of globalization, have strong motivations to ensure that supply chains remain robust and secure. They understand that goods coming from countries known for terrorist activity are subject to greater scrutiny, excessive delays, and higher costs. Every one of globalizations traditional flows — i.e., resources, capital, and people – are negatively impacted by political unrest and violence. Too many past discussions about the Middle East have focused on oil and blood. That needs to change. Fortunately, the moment seems ripe to focus discussions on progress and development.

 

People throughout the world felt the joy and hope that the people in Cairo’s Tahrir Square felt when they gathered following President Mubarak’s announcement that he was stepping down. We saluted the role taken and restraint demonstrated by Egypt’s military. It is a far cry from the position assumed by forces in Libya and Syria where guns have been turned on innocent civilians. There is measured hope throughout the non-Muslim world that brighter days are ahead. Although I believe the world is a better place without Bin Laden in it, dancing on his grave will achieve neither lasting peace nor much needed reconciliation. A measure of justice has been satisfied, but a broader justice and fuller peace remain to be achieved.