07 June 2009

In God we trust fund.

It's nice to have a President of the United States who is actually more intelligent than Osama bin Laden. Although bin Laden certainly holds some idiosyncratic views, his powers of organisation and extra-legal information structures are clearly not the work of a moron. Or to put it another way, he may be mad, but he isn't an idiot. For the last 8 years, a flat-footed George Bush was always three steps behind, not just in terms of locating bin Laden but in challenging his rhetorical appeal along the Arab Street.

And so with predictable timing, bin Laden released a tape to news networks to coincide with President Obama's trip to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Unfortunately, by accusing Obama of sowing seeds of hatred, he clearly completely mis-read the occasion, and Obama's speech, so adept and well-judged, has had the double effect of challenging views AND making bin Laden look like an idiot.

11 September 2001, and its personification in bin Laden, was seen as the greatest political strength Bush had to draw upon. But it was also one of his biggest weaknesses, for if you can embody the evil of Islamism into a single person, you only achieve success once you bring that person to justice, or at least track him down to a zip code. Either way, it means no-one ignores him, and his views are given credence because of the way he is treated by his enemies.

By expanding the picture to engage across the range of related issues, you take the focus off bin Laden. If you get Israel out of the West Bank and Syria out of Lebanon, bin Laden becomes irrelevant. Maybe the popular uprising in Pakistan against Taliban influence is a sign of things to come? Suddenly bin Laden becomes what he always was - an overindulged rich kid with absent father approval issues and too much time and money on his hands. Maybe he has more in common with Bush than I thought.

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