Osama doesn’t deal in the irrational. There is no cognitive gap between soldiers and suicide bombers. Both are equally ready for the mission. Shahedeen would prefer to live on, but they undertake suicide missions out of utter tactical necessity—like kamikaze, or soldiers in clearly lethal operations. Few soldiers are eager for high risk, and the number of suicide attackers is minuscule compared to the Muslim population.

Bin Laden’s goals are rational. All major Islamic terrorist organizations have a domestic agenda. They want to overturn the corrupt regimes in favor of a more pure revolutionary rule. Osama convinced some of the local terrorists to attack America first, in order to remove the dictators’ major support. That strategy is wrong: so far, the American-client dictatorships have invariably failed anyway, while some dictatorial regimes have persisted without American or Russian support. Though wrong, Bin Laden’s America-first strategy is rational, and suggests collaboration between him and Mubarak and Faisal. Osama does them a great favor by channeling their own terrorists into fighting America rather than their own governments. No doubt the Arab rulers pay him for the favor.

Incidentally, some of Osama’s immediate demands are good for America and Israel. America, indeed, has no business fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq; demolishing their government infrastructure and terrorist training camps in retaliation raids would serve immediate American interests just as well, and at a lower cost in lives and money. Osama condemns Hamas and PIJ for concentrating on Palestinian statehood rather than building a worldwide Islamic caliphate; Israel too would like Hamas to attack elsewhere. Israel would love to see a Middle East with no American presence, plunged into myriad local conflicts pitting progressive dictators against Islamic terrorists. Such a Middle East wouldn’t threaten Israel with a major war, and would even promote Israel to the role of regional power arbiter now held by America.

Some of Osama’s most outrageous demands have proven realistic. Back in 1997, he told a Pakistani newspaper that the price of oil should increase to $115 per barrel. Now the Muslim countries are more than halfway to realizing his admonition. Unlike Western analysts, Osama proved to be right about the Soviet collapse in Afghanistan and the Islamic victory in Sudan. The US toppled Saddam, whom Osama hated, and now pursues Osama’s agenda of democratizing Egypt. It remains to be seen whether Osama’s most far-fetched idea, that of an Islamic caliphate, will be realized. Cultures, like animal species, come and go. Ancient Greece, with its religion and culture, is irretrievably lost. Osama imagines the resurgence of truly fundamentalist—protestant—Islam. Protestant Christianity gained power only because it was supported by an economic boom, but Muslims lack the requisite culture of education and work ethics. More likely, Bin Laden’s war on America will remain a glorious episode of Islam’s Endspiel.

The West is blinded by political correctness and misguided hopes of minimizing the enemy’s civilian casualties. Osama said, “…if the majority of American people support their dissolute president [Clinton], this means the Americans are fighting us and we have a right to target them.” Osama repeatedly defended huge collateral losses among Muslim civilians during the terrorist attacks on the US embassies in Africa as unavoidable—a position the US and Israel shrank from in Iraq and Palestine. Osama is far from an idealist, but cynically applies double standards: he claims that killing enemy civilians with inherently indiscriminate weapons is permissible, but lambastes the very same collateral killing by Israel. Osama disregarded the plight of Muslims on a still larger scale when he denounced the first US-Iraq war. He felt no gratitude toward America for stopping Iraq’s atrocities in Kuwait. Osama thinks in terms of “our scoundrels against them.” Though at odds with secular Saddam and dependant on huge assistance from sources in Kuwait, Osama decried the American invasion of Iraq.

Westerners fall into the trap of rationalism. They try to understand the Muslim world and devise intellectual responses. That’s an absurdity on a par with a centrally planned economy. Societies are too complex to be described with simple formulas. Understanding Egyptian society from waterless Nubian villages to the intellectual coffeehouses of Cairo is a daunting, probably impossible task, and certainly not one that allows for straightforward conclusions. Add dozens of other Muslims countries with diverse societies, and academic and diplomatic generalizations about the Muslim world become demonstrable falsehoods. Some of the Muslim hatreds are similar: heinous America refuses them visas; an odd but powerful crowd called Jews, whom they have never met, oppresses the Palestinians, whom they have never seen either; and evil Russians spread communism, which promises to make all people equal and satiated. History, experience, and mentality drastically differ between Riyadh and Jakarta. The objects too are different. America and France are not “the West,” but an anti-Muslim and pro-Arab country, respectively. Western analysts try to understand Muslims, get everything wrong, and accordingly act wrongly, exacerbating the situation. Osama, on the contrary, is not a theorist. He shows no interest in understanding his enemy, but prefers targeting it without a second thought. That policy is far more effective.