Monday, May 16, 2011

Requiem for a Reprobate

Two weeks ago the World learned of the death of a misogynistic, homophobic, racist mass murderer who supported a theocratic, neo-fascist ideology posing as a liberation movement.

To be sure, Osama bin Laden was opposed to every tenet of modern progressive politics; secular democracy, representative government, equality of the sexes, anti-racism and the core values of the Enlightenment itself.

It is a bizarre historical coincidence, President Obama announced to the world that bin Laden was dead on May 1, the very same day that, 66 years earlier, Adolf Hitler was dead. It's fitting that two of history's great mass murderers share a day of death. Both embodied charisma and intelligence deployed in the service of evil and both were utterly callous about the killing of innocents to further their cause.

There are, of course, many differences between the two, but one great similarity holds. Hitler's death marked the end of the Nazi challenge from Germany. And bin Laden's death will mark the end of the global threat of al-Qaeda. Of course there are still groups groups that call themselves al-Qaeda and they will still plot and execute terrorist attacks, but the danger from al-Qaeda was always much more than that of a few isolated attacks. It was an ideological message that we feared had an appeal across the Muslim world of 1.5 billion believers.

While U.S. foreign policy might have been a contributing factor for their anti-western message of opposition and rage, it wasn't the main sore point and it could not alone explain the scale, depth and intensity of Islamic terrorism. There was something different about the nature of Arab frustration that had morphed into anti-American terrorism.

The Way I See It.....the central problem was the stagnation and repression of the Arab world--40 years of tyranny and decay--had led to deep despair and envy of the Western democracies ability to change, grow while still maintaining freedom for their citizens. The West became a target because it supported the Arab autocracies and al-Qaeda believed that the only way to topple these dictatorships was through violence and that the people wanted and would cheer an Islamic regime.

Osama bin-Laden would've seen the writing on the walls of his isolated refuge that his movement's message and force was dissipating over that past months as millions in the Arab-world have toppled regimes relatively peacefully, and what they have sought was not a New Caliphate, not a Theocracy, but a modern Democracy. The crowds in Cairo's Tahrir Square did not have pictures of bin Laden in their hands, but signs reading "Freedom" and "Equality".

Polls around the Muslim world confirm that support for bin Laden had been plummeting over the past five years. As al-Qaeda morphed into a series of small local groups, they turned the locals against them as they killed more Muslims than Infidels. Their "support" for radial jihadism had always been more theoretical than real, a support for a romantic notion of militant opposition to the West and its domination of the modern world. Once this terrorism came home, the people realized that they didn't want to return to the 7th Century and they didn't much like the men who wanted to bomb them back there.

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