The airing of the Osama bin Laden video has instantly and quite predictably generated the question of who does this benefit, Bush or Kerry? The simple answer is that the airing of this video at this time clearly helps Bush. The latest Fox poll
shows that on the question of who would do a better job fighting terrorism, Bush leads 53%-37%. Reminding people of the existence of OBL and terrorism will drive more people into the Bush camp. Undoubtedly Kerry will bring up the same tired lines of “the President failed to capture bin Laden”, and promising that he will. This line of attack will not work since it has the same effect of reminding people of terrorism.
What is a more interesting question in light of this video is why has OBL decided to air it now. I think we need to assume that OBL and his deputies are not just some dumb goatherds. These are men who have developed their ideology and thought out the best way to achieve their goals. Their goal is the re-establishment of the Caliphate. To do this they need to bring down the “corrupt” Arab governments and to expel the infidel from the holy land. In their minds, this can only be achieved by a confrontation with the West. Attacks on the US were meant to provoke us into a war. They finally succeeded in this goal on 9/11. OBL thought that if the US attacked Muslim countries, the Muslims would unite and rise up against the Great Satan. This did not happen, and from all indications is not likely to happen in the near future.
This video and the timing of its release were meant to influence our elections as much as the Madrid bombings were meant to influence their elections. It is incorrect to think that OBL would prefer Kerry because he would not wage the War on Terror as aggressively as Bush. OBL wants the exact opposite – a continuation of the confrontation, believing that Muslims will eventually unite against the US. His belief is that this will happen if Bush is elected.
On the other hand, our goals are the destruction of the Islamofascist ideology, and the radical redirection of the Arab world away from the dead end into which they have driven themselves. It is clear that Kerry is not the man who as President would be able to achieve these objectives. While OBL may think that Bush will help him achieve his goals, he is incorrect. The Muslim world is not uniting against the US, and with every small step towards consensual government, is moving further away from OBL’s ideology and goals. Alternatively, a replay of Clintonian foreign policy, which is what a Kerry administration would do, may do much to help OBL achieve his goals.