I grew up watching old Hollywood westerns in which the Indians always stopped fighting if their chief was killed, or at least they stopped until they selected a new chief. The killing of Osama bin Laden may provide a great deal of emotional satisfaction for Americans, but it won't necessarily improve the chances of defeating al Qaeda. The killing might even invigorate al Qaeda.
I was serving in Vietnam when North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh died. His death didn't change what was happening in the war.
Bin Laden's presence in an area far removed from the action indicates he might have become little more than a spiritual adviser to al Qaeda with operations controlled by others. If so his death at the hands of the Americans wouldn't affect operations, but his conversion to a martyr could provide a new rallying point.
(Incidentally, criticism of Pakistanis for not realizing he was at that compound ignores the fact that Pakistan has far more drug dealers / smugglers than terrorist leaders and drug dealers might also prefer to live in a fortress.)
Al Qaeda has been relatively ineffective for years, possibly because bin Laden has not provided effective leadership. Subordinates might have been afraid to challenge him because of his past role with the organization. His death could allow a more dynamic, imaginative, aggressive leader to take over. When a shrub stops growing, pruning off the old wood can give it new life.
Existing al Qaeda leaders might compete for the top position by conducting terrorist missions. Other organizations such as Hamas might seek a role in the new al Qaeda.
Perhaps members would be more willing to seek an alliance with an existing nation, particularly Libya which is fighting European "crusaders". An alliance wasn't practical before bin Laden's death because Qaddafi would both have wanted to be the leader. Qaddafi previously supported international terrorism.
The killing of Qaddafi's son and grandchildren shortly before the killing of bin Laden gives Libya and al Qaeda a common desire for revenge. Qaddafi can offer financing to al Qaeda in exchange for assistance fighting the NATO backed contras, or whatever the rebels are calling themselves.
Libyan rebel leader Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi is an al Qaeda veteran and potentially take over if he came to power in Libya and was able to divert part of its oil revenue to al Qaeda.
Some in the Pakistan military may be so upset at the embarrassment caused by conduct of such an attack near their capital that they will give advanced weapons to al Qaeda and the Taliban. We can only hope that the Pakistan government adds extra security for its nuclear weapons.
Pakistan is not a tiny banana republic like Venezuela. It has half the population of the U.S. and the world's 7th largest military, including nuclear armed missiles.
Pakistan is a democracy which means the government must consider popular sentiment which could become more anti-U.S. as a result of the raid. If Obama's critics are correct about him visiting Pakistan in 1981 as a student using an Indonesian passport (possibly under the name of Barry Soetoro or Barry Durham) and Pakistan had a record of that visit, Pakistan could embarrass him by releasing the information. I don't know if embarrassing Obama after he embarrassed Pakistan by violating its sovereignty would be enough to quiet any public outcry against the U.S.
Obama's decision to secretly bury bin Laden at sea could be a blunder. The action sounds like a coverup because when criminals "bury" a body in the water it's to prevent discovery of the crime.
Al Qaeda could have tried to find someone who looked like bin Laden and could imitate his voice to make a video claiming the U.S. killed the wrong man. Fortunately for Obama, al Qaeda has decided it would rather have bin Laden be a martyr.
Steve Landman's blog is claiming that the man killed in the raid cannot be bin Laden because he died of natural causes years ago. Al Qaeda would have had an incentive to keep the death a secret because it needed him alive as a rallying point. A death by natural causes would have tarnished his image, but "murder" by the U.S. provides a better rallying point. This theory could explain the lack of adequate security around the compound, including an apparent lack of antiaircraft weapons. If the man wasn't really bin Laden, his death would only benefit al Qaeda.
It would have been better to have had someone other than bin Laden's wife and U.S. experts provide identification for the body. His wife might have identified the body as his so the U.S. would stop looking for him or to prevent discovery of a false identity. It appears the U.S. won't be hurt by the failure to get better idenfication of the body, but an intelligent president wouldn't have taken unnecessary chances.
Burying him at sea won't prevent someone from establishing a shrine to him, but instead would allow a shrine to be build any place, including the place where he was killed, or in their view where he became a martyr..
The U.S. could have avoided the possibility of a shrine at his grave site by turning the body over to family members who had disowned him for burial at an secret site in Saudi Arabia which had revoked his citizenship.. Acceptance of the body by family members, who would not have been identified, would have provided more reliable identification of it.
Releasing of photos of the shooting won't provide proof he was killed. Hollywood routinely simulates the killing of actors in movies. Jay Leno has occasionally shown doctored videos showing bin Laden at various locations, including the White House. Release of the photos would be more likely to inflame his supporters than to prove he was killed.
Fortunately, Obama's release of his long form birth certificate prior to the death of bin Laden gives Obama more credibility than he would have had. Without that release, al Qaeda members might have compared the "missing" body to his missing birth certificate.