Obama v. Osama

Before President-elect Barack Obama takes office, the fight is on. In one corner: Osama bin Laden, spewing his hateful, jihadist propaganda. In the other corner: Barack Obama, the eloquent multi-culturist offering a congenial hand towards a curious world. These two leaders are on opposite ends of the war on terror, each aims to shape Muslim opinion in their favor and each has a stake in convincing the Islamic world of AmericaâÄôs value. Say what you will about the tenets of the United StatesâÄô war on terror, or the effectiveness of the tactics employed in fighting it âÄî the threat is real. Beyond the criticism, beyond Guantanamo Bay, and appalling stories of torture, there lies an enemy who most sincerely wishes our destruction. Furthermore, these enemies will gladly sacrifice their lives in pursuit of this goal. These statements are not meant to rouse fear, only to recognize that there is real evil in the world âÄî itâÄôs most obvious manifestation being radical and violent Islamic fundamentalism. Less palpable, but equally repugnant, evil would include the neo-Nazis who recently plotted to kill our president-elect. Obama, despite his dovish manner, has taken a pretty hawkish stance against AmericaâÄôs extremist foes. Defeating radical Islamic fundamentalism will be a priority of ObamaâÄôs administration. Indeed, this is a precursor to national security and he seems to understand this point well. In a Nov. 16 interview with âÄú60 minutes,âÄù Obama reaffirmed his commitment to this goal: âÄúIt is a top priority for us to stamp out al-Qaida once and for all,âÄù also adding, âÄúand I think capturing or killing bin Laden is a critical aspect of stamping out al-Qaida.âÄù Obama has clearly stated his intentions. He has also expressed the correct belief that the central front in the war on terror is not in Iraq, but Afghanistan, seeing a more urgent threat coming from the lawless border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. CIA Director Michael Hayden agrees that al-Qaida is no longer flourishing in Iraq: âÄúAl-Qaida in Iraq is on the verge of strategic defeatâÄù he said last week at the Atlantic Council. If you regard Iraq to be a gross distraction from the true source of terrorism, ObamaâÄôs words offer reassurance that the United States will regain its focus and fight a more effective war against the evil that inspires terrorism. Obama has publicly taken aim at the elusive bin Laden, both verbally and strategically. If the policies Obama is suggesting are actually undertaken, they will bring the fight directly to bin LadenâÄôs doorstep, as most terrorism experts agree that he is hiding somewhere in the mountainous Waziristan region running along the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Last week, al-Qaida fired back with some choice words aimed at the president-elect. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, bin LadenâÄôs top deputy and Al-QaidaâÄôs frequent mouthpiece, derided our next president, calling him a âÄúhouse Negro.âÄù This being a reference to what Malcolm X described as the more docile and subservient slaves who served in the home rather than in the fields, but ultimately were serving whiteâÄôs interest. Al-Zawahiri further rants on that Obama is âÄúthe direct opposite of honorable black AmericansâÄù like Malcolm X. A racial slur from a terrorist is not terribly meaningful; weâÄôre talking about people who advocate the mass slaughter of innocent civilians; being a racist is a pretty minor offense for these folks. The significance of these comments comes from their motivation. You can count these remarks as the first jabs in the fight for the hearts and minds of the Islamic world. This is the fight that most concerns al-Qaida and should most concern Obama. In light of the incredible international popularity of Obama, al-Qaida is scrambling to discredit him in any way they can. Being that a recent poll found the top draw for al-Qaida sympathizers was their opposition to the United States âÄî which only stood at a modest 30 percent âÄî any improvement in the United StatesâÄô image equates to less support for al-Qaida. In other words, the more the world hates America, the better it is for the business of bin Laden. Al-QaidaâÄôs success and ideological draw is dependent upon the United StatesâÄô poor image abroad. Bin laden and Al-Zawahiri know this. They also know that ObamaâÄôs election stands to greatly improve the United StatesâÄô standing in the world, thus hurting their appeal and effectiveness. This would explain the above comments. Al-Qaida has a vested interest in promoting the idea that the United States is still a white, Christian, racist Crusader with an imperialist power structure calling the shots, and therefore an enemy to brown people and Muslims everywhere. The real fight between Obama and Osama is not a dispute about land or geo-political power, but for the valued assessment of the Islamic world. Victory in the war on terror can almost exclusively be tied to positive Islamic sentiment. The more disgruntled, anti-American Muslim youth, the more opportunity for OsamaâÄôs hateful ideals to capture them and turn them into weapons in his war against the West. To our great fortune, the United States has the most effective weapon against Osama and his ideals. The election of Obama presents an advantage that all the bombs or tanks in the world never could; it offers a chance to gain the admiration of the Arab world. Something ObamaâÄôs predecessor, President George W. Bush, seemed only to lessen with each word that came from his mouth and each decision delivered from his desk. Osama and his chums can toss cheap racial epithets over the Internet, but considering ObamaâÄôs vast international appeal, round one still goes to Obama. Ross Anderson welcomes comments at [email protected]