On Tuesday afternoon, conservative intellectual Robert George moderated a panel of Middle East experts as they discussed the effects of Osama bin Laden's death on America and the world.
Michael Reynolds, a Princeton professor of Near Eastern Studies, said bin Laden's death brought attention to how America had changed in the past 10 years.
"We went into the Middle East thinking we were going to transform it and make it more like America," Reynolds told about 80 students, faculty and town residents at Dodds Auditorium in Robertson Hall, "One thing that has struck me is how much we've instead become like the Middle East."
Reynolds said America's establishing the Department of Homeland Security, use of torture and involvement in instances such as Abu Ghraib would have been "unimaginable" to him 10 years earlier.
George questioned the ethics of bin Laden's killing by bringing up rumors that the lead to bin Laden's location had been obtained through water boarding.
Jennifer Bryson, director of the Research Project on Islam and Civil Society at the Witherspoon Institute, said torture is not necessary for either obtaining information or in keeping America "a country worth defending."
"When we look at the histories to be written some day of what has been effective in Iraq and Guantanamo, it has been human, decent, sophisticated interrogation practices," Bryson said.
America should not fear the word "influence," Bryson said, or hesitate to spread certain ideals.
"There are human ideals that we'd like to take root in foreign populations," Bryson said, "That's the kind of foreign engagement we should use."
Bryson also encouraged a change in American diplomacy to engage with foreign populations instead of just their governments. According to Bryson, bin Laden was an "extreme, brutal" reminder of how important it was for foreign relations to take non-state actors into account.
"When we don't understand where the pulse of populations is, it really is to our peril," Bryson said, "When foreign populations have aspirations for peaceful pluralism and economic prosperity, we have a strategic interest in that. It isn't just what they think about the USA."
Darren Staloff, history professor at the City University of New York, said that bin Laden's location in Pakistan demonstrated the insufficiencies of government-to-government diplomacy.
"I would certainly defer to the argument that much of Pakistan's ineffectiveness has been due to incompetence," Staloff said. "But it seems likely that at least some of it is due to complicity."
Reynolds said America should take a stance in avoiding unnecessary enemies and showing that "we are resolved to defend ourselves."
"I think the key to not fueling jihad is not showing how cool we can be but rather to demonstrate resolve," Reynolds said, "There's a very naive belief that if we smile and Obama says a few words, we'll win everyone over — which is an absurdity."
Reynolds warned that bin Laden's death did not mean the end of al-Qaeda. Rather, Americans should continue to be wary of al-Qaeda, similar organizations and other anti-American actors, he said.
"Anyone who is anti-American will see bin Laden as someone that they admire for standing up to the United States," Reynolds said, "The world view espoused by al-Qaeda is one that is not restricted to members of al-Qaeda. I don't think the death of bin Laden will fundamentally change anything in the face of jihadism."
At the same time, Bryson noted that many Muslims both in the U.S. and overseas had been "overjoyed" at bin Laden's death.
"They have faced a lot of negative stereotyping and harassment associated with the terrorism that they reject. So ending bin Laden's influence has strengthened certain allies," Bryson said, "By recognizing that there is a very active other perspective, it helps to give us hope for the future and partners for us to work with."
One attendee asked the panel to address whether it was appropriate for Americans to celebrate in such a "jingoist" manner.
"When I found that Osama bin Laden was dead, I didn't really want to understand his childhood and what made him bad. He was a monster," Staloff said, "I don't consider it jingoist. I consider it patriotic. I think it would be somewhat perverse not to celebrate it."
Bryson was less enthusiastic.
"I've been a bit uncomfortable with the tone of some of the celebrations because I don't think human death is to be celebrated," Bryson said, "But to the extent that they're celebrating America being safe, I think that's okay."
Bernard Lewis, another Princeton professor of Near Eastern Studies, further qualified the American response to bin Laden's death.
"To celebrate a death is indecent," Lewis said, "But to celebrate a victory is very legitimate. I'm just not sure that we've yet achieved a victory."