Al Qaeda is not a terrorist organization in the sense that it regularly commits terrorist acts with its own cadres. Rather, Al Qaeda is a venture firm engaged in seed financing, superfluous training, PR, and logistics. In return for those services, Al Qaeda shares in the credit for terrorist acts committed by its client groups. Sometimes Al Qaeda claims participation; that mostly happens when grassroots terrorists without an organization of their own perpetrate the attack. More often Al Qaeda merely lauds the terrorist act—as happened with 9/11—without hijacking the laurels. Osama might be fearless, but he is a not a soldier—merely a rich Arab who brought the concepts of Western capitalism into the field of anti-Western terrorism. Let’s look at the details.

Hollywood horror movies endow aggressors with bizarre features; the media treat terrorists similarly. But they are not bizarre exceptions to human nature. They are normal religious nationalists willing to die for their cause, but they do not seek death like members of some death cult; Bin Laden evades American attempts to kill him. In regular armies, soldiers undertake practically suicidal missions defending their comrades and country; terrorists operate similarly. People who strongly identify with ideas might die physically but continue living in their ideas; shahedeen die, but live on as part of the ummah. Neither are terrorists monsters; compare the 9/11 civilian death toll to the fire-bombings of Dresden and Tokyo. The absence of a mass following among Muslims doesn’t prove Bin Laden wrong: John Brown failed to rally a significant number of slaves, but nevertheless greatly advanced the abolitionist cause.

Westerners despise Bin Laden for his ideology of barbaric intolerance. Civilized, affluent people are afraid to show intolerance because it endangers their lifestyle: the victims of their intolerance can strike back. People preoccupied with the pursuit of material wealth abandon the fight for moral values and rationalize their cowardice by abandoning moral absolutes. But the entire human system of values is calibrated with moral values. People who don’t pursue moral imperatives pursue other things even less. They want welfare rather than work, and submission to government rather than responsibility.

Osama is highly responsible. Westerners seek to enjoy every moment of their lives, and grow impatient. They want all policies to bring immediate results. Osama, in the service of eternal God, is very patient—not because he is superhuman, but because he cannot change the political situation immediately. Neither are his means outdated. Westerners launched massive wars in Algiers, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, but believe the age of war is over. The inhabitants of the Pax Romana and Peace of Westphalia worlds thought similarly. Jews in 1939 thought that ethnic or religious wars had become unthinkable. Osama is far more realistic.

Taking the fight into America is not apocalyptic lunacy, but the only viable way to win the war. The Soviets lost the war in Afghanistan despite their cruelty because the mujahedeen had safe havens in Pakistan; they could regroup, rearm, and relax. Israel similarly loses against the West Bank terrorists by allowing them safe havens in Jenin and elsewhere. Osama has to attack America if he is to deny his enemy a place to relax; continuous strain breaks the will to fight.

Osama is not a genius who rallied the Muslim nations. The Muslim community is too huge, diverse, and dispersed to feel communal bonds. Other Muslims didn’t help their Indonesian coreligionists who were hit by the tsunami, and few Muslims came to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet invaders. The seventh-century jihad was waged for spoils rather than religion, and since then the Arabs have shown no religious zeal to fight. Arabs want US visas rather than Palestinian statehood. Osama attracted into his ranks one thousandth of one percent of the world’s Muslims. Many more admire him as a symbol but have no intention of joining him. Osama draws adventurers rather than Muslims. That’s not Osama’s fault, but human nature. Rabbi Kahane similarly failed to gather a significant number of American Jews to confront Russia over the emigration restrictions on Soviet Jews. Osama was even less successful in garnering worldwide Muslim support for the Palestinian insurgency. He repeatedly condemned Muslim governments and clergy for their failure to channel military support to the Palestinians, and his once-beloved Hamas proved a disappointment, unconcerned with global Islamic struggle.