Max Boot: Bin Laden: The Day of Reckoning






Max Boot, a senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, is writing a history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.

In evaluating Osama bin Laden's dubious legacy, it is important to note that there was nothing new about religiously inspired terrorism when this rich Saudi exile convened a small group of jihadists in his Peshawar, Pakistan, home in 1988 to found Al Qaeda, or "the Base" — an organization designed to carry on the war waged so successfully against the Red Army in Afghanistan.

Two of the earliest known terrorist groups — the Jewish Sicarii, or "dagger men," who terrorized 1st century Judea, and the Shiite Muslim Assassins, who terrorized the Middle East in the Middle Ages — were known for pursuing religious rather than strictly political agendas. More recently, Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim jihadist group, had already pioneered many of the techniques — especially the use of suicide bombers and the intensive manipulation of the news media — that would become Al Qaeda trademarks.

Bin Laden's contribution was to take a global approach. In earlier times, terrorist and guerrilla groups had largely operated in one area. The Viet Cong did not try to hit New York. The IRA did not attack Paris. But Bin Laden envisioned and developed an insurgency that reached to Europe, Africa, Asia and North America....



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