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Don't Do Bin Laden Any Favors

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On "Islamo-fascism," there is another important reason to avoid the term. Let's remember that one of the principal goals of Al Qaeda, like most terrorist groups throughout history, has been to get their opponents to inflate their importance. On this score, they have been without question the single most successful terrorists in history. A group which, in its entire history, has caused a number of American civilian deaths equivalent to what the Soviet Union suffered more than twice a day for four years during World War II, and which has thankfully not yet demonstrated a capacity to do much worse, has repeatedly been compared to the greatest monsters of the twentieth century. My guess is that Osama bin Laden is actually quite content to have the leading figures of the West place him on the same level of historical importance as Hitler and Stalin, and to have the fight against him called a "world war." It's the best publicity device he could hope for, and probably an excellent recruitment tool as well. Whatever we gain in vigilance by treating Al Qaeda as a source of almost supernatural potency and danger is surely more than offset by the benefits that the group itself derives from this fantastic and unrealistic image. Let's remain vigilant, but also remember that this is an organization that has often had to rely on pathetic, and not exactly Ninja-like recruits such as the "shoe bomber" Richard Reid to carry out its plans. By treating it as the reincarnation of the SS--which it is not, either in ideology or capacity for harm--we are doing ourselves no favors, and doing Osama bin Laden a very large one.

--David A. Bell

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