Thursday, August 30, 2007

With Luck, Bin Laden May Live Forever

Mark Buchanan's smart blog The Social Atom professes bafflement over Tom Friedman's professed bafflement over the Bush administration's failure to use its vaunted PR capabilities to discredit Osama bin Laden among the world's Muslims:
I don't find anything puzzling here at all. This administration invented the "War on Terror," and induced every major news organization to go along with the phrase, making it seem almost like an element of objective reality, rather than the very effective demonstration of framing that it is. Terrorism may be real, but the "War on Terror" is a psychological tool of US politics.

I haven't seen any evidence to dissuade me from the belief that this administration is far more interested in appearing to face up to the threat, than in actually doing so.
Well put. But I myself am a bit baffled as to why Buchanan doesn't take the obviously logical next step, which is to recognize that both the Bush administration and the Republican Party are positively dependent on Osama bin Laden for any remaining political influence and appeal they have.

It may have been impolitic for her to say so, but Hillary Clinton was not wrong when she said that a terrorist attack prior to the 2008 election would likely be a major plus for the Republicans. Yes, I know it's not logical--why should a devastating policy failure by the incumbent administration help that administration's party? But the way these issues get covered by the media--with help from the hapless Democrats, I'm sorry to say--that's probably what would happen.

In objective terms, Osama bin Laden has clearly become the Republicans' best friend. So not only does the Bush administration have no real incentive to try to marginalize or even to capture bin Laden, it actually has a positive incentive to prop him up.

Which raises the question: If bin Laden were to be killed or captured, would the administration want us to know? Or would they prefer to have him remain available as a bogeyman, the way the government of Oceania kept "Emmanuel Goldstein" alive as a threat just to spice up the daily Two Minutes' Hate?

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