Tabin, while I was watching Season Three of Three’s Company this morning, an episode came on in which Stanley admitted to Jack that, after a brief scare, everything was back to normal because Jack was no longer acting normal. This zany paradox analogizes very closely to what’s behind Yglesias’ take on bin Laden and your flabbergasted response.
Let me explain. The insta-conventional wisdom, spearheaded as often it is by Matt Drudge, holds bin Laden’s latest missive to be a particularly scattershot and eccentric rant on topics that seem almost embarrassingly distant from the jihadist red meat that one rather wants to expect from the world’s most wanted man. But rather than getting stupider and stupider, bin Laden, in his taped messages, actually seems to be getting more reasonable — a sure sign that his campaign is failing and his movement is losing effectiveness. Certainly jihadism remains robust. But bin Laden’s move to repeat common arguments on the left suggests to me that his other, less broadly popular arguments have been even more parochial and less inspiring than he’d hoped.
This, incidentally, would count as a particular humiliation for us if, as people from Rumsfeld to Bacevich have at times suggested, the Iraq war has greatly increased the spirit and appeal of jihadism. Imagine how uninspiring bin Laden’s calls to action would be without the helpful goad of crusaders in Mesopotamia. But that would make bin Laden’s move to liberal talking points even more remarkable: all this protracted difficulty in Iraq, and still the message of jihad isn’t quite cutting it for bin Laden?
Chris Wallace’s outrageous attack on Ron Paul during the last debate — asking him, you know, if Paul thought we should take our ‘marching orders’ from al Qaeda — now seems even more ridiculous: it’s al Qaeda, in the person of bin Laden, who’s taking marching orders from us. Regardless of how right or wrong is the left on any number of issues, it’s not just entertaining but also significant that bin Laden has decided he stands something to gain by dancing to their tune. Unfortunately for him, he might get Americans to force a withdrawal from Iraq, but not even an endorsement of Hillary Clinton would get his own self out from behind the crosshairs. In another delightful little irony it’s mainly the left, after all, that can’t shut up about how Bush has failed to kill bin Laden quickly enough.