Bruce B. Lawrence, professor of Islamic studies at Duke University, wrote an introduction to a soon-to-be-published "first-ever English translation of the major declarations of Osama bin Laden." Now Lawrence has written an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education sharing what he's learned about bin Laden the clues his writings give us to winning the war on terror.
Bin Laden's project couples faith and fighting with relentless insistence on the need to act, and his messages continue to have an appeal. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands revere him for his bold stand against the world's sole remaining superpower and its allies, Muslim and non-Muslim. Ironically, during the 80s the CIA helped him to become a local hero in the Afghan war against the Soviets, but during the 90s and into the new century it was media technology that made him into an international celebrity. Bin Laden could not have achieved global prominence without audiocassettes, the Internet, and satellite television, especially Al-Jazeera. His legacy is more secure than his life: No matter when or how he dies, he will not easily be dislodged from his perch as the most famous/infamous Arab of the 21st century.
If I have learned one enduring lesson from months of reflection on the words of Osama bin Laden, it is that the best defense against World War III is neither censoring nor silencing him but reading what he has actually written and countering his arguments with better ones. He has left a sufficient record that can, and should, be attacked for its deficiencies, its lapses, its contradictions, and, above all, its hopelessness.