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January 3, 2005
Osama's Nightmare

Claude Salhani at the Washington Times presents an analysis of Osama bin Laden's reaction to the two outbreaks of democracy in Southwest Asia this month, and talks about how desperate the terror chief is to stop them:

Osama bin Laden, the man who since 9/11 brought fear into the hearts of millions, is now running scared. The master terrorist is afraid; he is very afraid.

What frightens bin Laden today are not American B-2 super-stealth bombers capable of dropping tons of high explosives on him from unseen heights, nor the tens of thousands of troops and legions of intelligence officers looking for him since September 2001. He knows how to cope with them. What frightens bin Laden today is the ballot box.

The leader of al-Qaida appears particularly concerned over the prospects of pending elections in two Arab countries -- the Palestinian Authority and Iraq -- both scheduled for later this month.

Salhani discusses how Osama wants to form a new, pan-Islamic caliphate throughout Southwest Asia, with its capitol no doubt being Jerusalem, if not Mecca itself. His Wahhabist outlook stands in diametrical opposition to self-rule through democracy. The Caliphate, after all, hearkens back to strongman rule through the appointment of Allah, not the petty concerns of Muslims and dhimmis in general.

Unfortunately for Osama, a caliphate sounds pretty good to those trapped in oppressive lands ruled by petty, tribal tyrants -- but it begins to lose its appeal once the people have a taste of running their own government. While he can rile the Sunnis in Iraq by claiming that the elections there are an American sham (a point of view that our mainstream media helps to feed), the Palestinian elections are harder to write off. With Arafat gone, Palestinians have their first opportunity ever to take their destiny into their own hands by demanding a fair and transparent electoral process that puts real power into the Palestinian legislature. Once achieved, Osama's vision of single-caliph rule will pale by comparison.

Again, the wisdom of combating terror by freeing the people of the Middle East becomes plain. As long as Arabs see themselves as unfit for democracy, either through religious dogma or tribal history, Osama's call for a caliph to put all things right remains a seductive fantasy even with its failed history in the Ottoman Empire. For that matter, as long as the West considers Arabs unfit for democracy, that fantasy thrives in opposition. With the examples of Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Palestinian Authority to demonstrate the power of self-rule, Osama's fantasy becomes a fairy tale, a la Brothers Grimm, of the destructive power of unrealistic wishes.

That's Osama's nightmare, and that is how he loses the war on terror. He knows it and will pull out all stops to keep elections from fruition. That is why no delay should be considered in conducting the elections, and why we need to stick with the strategy of liberation and forward engagement.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 3, 2005 12:01 PM

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