Thursday, August 17, 2006

Terrorism II: It's About Imagination, Stupid

A central irony of the success of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda and failure of American intelligence to stop the terrorist group or kill its leader is imagination.

I'm talking about OBL's ability to harness imagination for his own evil ends and the utter lack of imagination in a spy community that was more concerned with protecting turf than deciphering the many signs that an attack of enormous consequence was being planned on the homeland.

Says Lawrence Wright in "The Looming Tower":
One can ask . . . whether 9/11 or some similar tragedy might have happened without bin Laden to steer it. The answer is certainly not. Indeed, the tectonic plates of history were shifting, promoting a period of conflict between the West and the Arab Muslim world; however, the charisma and vision of a few individuals shaped the nature of this contest. . . . At the time when there weremany Islamist movements, all of them concentrated on nationalist goals, it was bin Laden's vision to create an international jihad corps. It was his leadership that held together an organization that had been bankrupted abd thrown into exile. It was bin Laden's tenacity that made him deaf to the moral quarrels that attended the murderof so many and indifferent to the repeated failures that would have destroyed most men's dreams. All of these were qualities that one can ascribe to a cult leader or a madman. But there was also artistry involved, not only to achieve the spectacular effect but also to enlist the imagination of the men whose lives bin Laden required.

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