What Does Osama Bin Laden Want?

Taking stock of people and ideas in the news.
Sept. 14 2001 2:30 AM

What Does Osama Bin Laden Want?

Nothing we have.

(Continued from Page 1)

It is a mistake to assume that killing Bin Laden means killing his movement. It's true that Bin Laden is an iconic leader who inspires his followers and millions of sympathizers in the Muslim world. But eliminating Bin Laden would do nothing to decrease the intensity of the other militant Islamists. The Afghan war created a cadre of warriors and belligerent clerics who are constantly recruiting. Bin Laden has a core of highly trained aides ready to continue his work. His trainees are scattered in two dozen countries. It is hard to imagine how the United States could neutralize all of them. And attacks on Bin Laden have only increased his popularity: Killing him would likely rally many more Muslims to his cause.


(Some pundits have suggested that killing Bin Laden would be effective because it would stanch the flow of cash to terrorists. This may not be so. Bin Laden's groups do get funds from his personal fortune, but they also finance operations by dunning wealthy Gulf Arabs and by siphoning off donations to Muslim charities. And the terror organization is cheap. They don't use heavy weapons, and it costs almost nothing to house and train hundreds of men in Afghanistan.)

Is there anything we can do to persuade Bin Laden to stop? The terror groups Americans are familiar with—Palestinian bombers and hijackers, IRA hard men—have desires we understand. They perform acts of terror in order to gain sympathy or sow fear. That sympathy or fear is a means to their end: political recognition, a state, compensation. They seek to participate in our world.

But Bin Laden and his followers are alarming because they don't want anything from us. They don't want our sympathy. They want no material thing we can offer them. They don't want to participate in the community of nations. (They don't really believe in the nation-state.) They are motivated by religion, not politics. They answer to no one but their god, so they certainly won't answer to us.


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

There Are New Abuse Allegations Against Adrian Peterson

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

John Oliver Pleads for Scotland to Stay With the U.K.

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter


Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 

The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police

The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 1:51 PM Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police
  News & Politics
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.