Bin Laden’s reliance on Western theorizing about the reasons for Al Qaeda’s existence and actions is clear in Messages to the World. Reading his statements from 1994 to 2004, one can see clearly that he transforms himself from a religious crank obsessed by Saudi Arabia (circa 1994) to a self-described warrior for Palestine (around 2001–02) to a full-fledged Bush basher (from 2004 onward). His campaign is shaped less by his own program of ideas or aims than it is by the West’s interpretation of that campaign.So now Osama bin Laden has a new look, perhaps from the salon, or maybe a half-dozen boxes of Just for Men, but strip the Islamic references from his latest message and once again it sounds like Democratic boiler plate. What's more, there's another new video coming for the anniversary of September 11--I heard on the radio that it's expected to have better production values and serve as something of a multimedia marketing spiel.
Who knows whether bin Laden has access to the Web? Who knows whether he reads blogs, or if he hears such arguments from supportive visitors from Pakistan or Afghanistan or Wherever-istan? One thing is clear: His arguments sound remarkably familiar. Like bloggers on both the left and right, he seems obsessed by media coverage of the Iraq war (and of himself) rather than by the substance of the war. He certainly speaks in the shrill tones of some of the crankier left-wing bloggers.
Bin Laden, it seems to me, is regurgitating the arguments of Western commentators and using them to justify his crimes. He is less the armed wing of a clear or coherent Islamist worldview than he is the armed wing of the West’s own fearful and tortured debates about war and terrorism today.
Let's see: a sudden concern with vanity, increased dabbling with a Madison Ave. sensibility, and taking more rhetorical cues from the American Left. Boy, it sure sounds an awful lot like the Soviet Union just before the collapse.