Daniel W. Drezner

REPLY TO OSAMA: The Guardian’s

REPLY TO OSAMA: The Guardian’s Sunday Observer has reprinted Osama bin Laden’s alleged “letter to the American people,” The letter was originally posted in Arabic on a Saudi web site. The Observer story describes it as, “the most comprehensive explanation of bin Laden’s ideology to be issued for several years.” Andrew Sullivan makes several trenchant ...

REPLY TO OSAMA: The Guardian's Sunday Observer has reprinted Osama bin Laden's alleged “letter to the American people,” The letter was originally posted in Arabic on a Saudi web site. The Observer story describes it as, “the most comprehensive explanation of bin Laden's ideology to be issued for several years.” Andrew Sullivan makes several trenchant comments on it. InstaPundit also has a reply. Here's mine: Dear Osama, I’m sensing some nervous tension in your last missive. You seem concerned about the exchange of letters between American and Saudi intellectuals. You should be scared, since it’s pretty clear that your faith in your faith is staggeringly weak. Let me explain. You believe you’re a devout Muslim, armed with a super-freaky interpretation of the Quran. OK, so yada, yada, yada, you’re devout. But it’s pretty clear that you believe that when Muslims – much less infidels – are faced with an array of choices, your version of the creed isn’t going to win. This is why you fulminate against the inability to impose Shariah, the U.S. separation of church and state, and the fact that American culture seems to be kicking some global ass. Because without the power of the state, without the elimination of a marketplace of ideas, your "fun-loving" philosophy is doomed to go the way of the do-do bird. Even with the power of the state, you're in trouble. Looked at Iran recently? Leaving aside the state, it’s pretty clear you don’t want anyone around that disagrees with your theology. You think you have arrived at the definitive interpretation of the Torah, Quran, and U.S. Constitution. You also believe that any other interpretation must be the work of the Jews, the gays, or the myriad other minorities you want to persecute. What, you’re afraid of some debate, some give and take on these issues? That’s the way you attract followers, by changing their minds. This letter is not going to help in that cause. It does a great job with the Stalinist intellectuals – loved your references to Kyoto and the ICC – but you’ve already got their misguided votes. This kind of intellectual cowardice doesn’t play well with the masses. The exchange of different opinions and ideas will be the death of you, your cronies, and your totalitarian ideology. You might blow some more things up; I have no doubt you’ll try. But that’s your only strategy left. You can’t tolerate discussion; you can’t tolerate debate. You request to “deal with us and interact with us on the basis of mutual interests and benefits, rather than the policies of subdual (sic), theft and occupation” is fatuous in the extreme. There is no mutuality of interests. You’ve defined the situation as a zero-sum game. So thanks for clearing that up. Sincerely, Daniel W. Drezner UPDATE: Jacob Levy argues that the letter is a fake (which I agree is a distinct possibility); Jon Kay argues it's proof that Osama really wants to be a blogger.

REPLY TO OSAMA: The Guardian’s Sunday Observer has reprinted Osama bin Laden’s alleged “letter to the American people,” The letter was originally posted in Arabic on a Saudi web site. The Observer story describes it as, “the most comprehensive explanation of bin Laden’s ideology to be issued for several years.” Andrew Sullivan makes several trenchant comments on it. InstaPundit also has a reply. Here’s mine: Dear Osama, I’m sensing some nervous tension in your last missive. You seem concerned about the exchange of letters between American and Saudi intellectuals. You should be scared, since it’s pretty clear that your faith in your faith is staggeringly weak. Let me explain. You believe you’re a devout Muslim, armed with a super-freaky interpretation of the Quran. OK, so yada, yada, yada, you’re devout. But it’s pretty clear that you believe that when Muslims – much less infidels – are faced with an array of choices, your version of the creed isn’t going to win. This is why you fulminate against the inability to impose Shariah, the U.S. separation of church and state, and the fact that American culture seems to be kicking some global ass. Because without the power of the state, without the elimination of a marketplace of ideas, your “fun-loving” philosophy is doomed to go the way of the do-do bird. Even with the power of the state, you’re in trouble. Looked at Iran recently? Leaving aside the state, it’s pretty clear you don’t want anyone around that disagrees with your theology. You think you have arrived at the definitive interpretation of the Torah, Quran, and U.S. Constitution. You also believe that any other interpretation must be the work of the Jews, the gays, or the myriad other minorities you want to persecute. What, you’re afraid of some debate, some give and take on these issues? That’s the way you attract followers, by changing their minds. This letter is not going to help in that cause. It does a great job with the Stalinist intellectuals – loved your references to Kyoto and the ICC – but you’ve already got their misguided votes. This kind of intellectual cowardice doesn’t play well with the masses. The exchange of different opinions and ideas will be the death of you, your cronies, and your totalitarian ideology. You might blow some more things up; I have no doubt you’ll try. But that’s your only strategy left. You can’t tolerate discussion; you can’t tolerate debate. You request to “deal with us and interact with us on the basis of mutual interests and benefits, rather than the policies of subdual (sic), theft and occupation” is fatuous in the extreme. There is no mutuality of interests. You’ve defined the situation as a zero-sum game. So thanks for clearing that up. Sincerely, Daniel W. Drezner UPDATE: Jacob Levy argues that the letter is a fake (which I agree is a distinct possibility); Jon Kay argues it’s proof that Osama really wants to be a blogger.

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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