No False Choices for the Impressive David Miliband

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While eating a London-style breakfast this morning at the Royal Horseguards Hotel in Whitehall, I read two major articles featuring long interviews with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. Both pieces are in today’s Guardian newspaper – one across most of the front cover with a huge picture of Miliband, and the other in the center pages — with an even larger picture of the intelligent, youngish foreign minister/blogger. You can read the pieces — first and second. What I didn’t…

Why Are We Not Appealing to the Vanity of Bin Laden and Al Zawahiri?

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I just read a passage written by Peter Bergen, my colleague at the New America Foundation and a contributor to Anderson Cooper’s AC360. Bergen, who has been the lead chronicler of the iconic Islamic terrorist now joined by my other colleague Steve Coll who recently authored The Bin Ladens, says little new in his commentary on the “long, fruitless hunt for Bin Laden” that he hasn’t said before. He does reflect on the seeming disregard bin Laden has for either…

TERRORISM SALON: Peter Bergen’s Atta Follow Up

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(Peter Bergen is a Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation). Sure, but history is mostly about what happened, not what might have happened, and when Atta showed up in Afghanistan in 1999 bin Laden and his then-military commander, Mohamed Atef, tapped him to lead the 9/11 operation because of his familiarity with the West and other abilities that made him all too well-suited to implement it. — Peter Bergen This week long terrorism salon will continue to be…

TERRORISM SALON: Yosri Fouda on Atta’s Embodiment of the Arab/Muslim Street

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(Yosri Fouda is the Chief Investigative Correspondent and Former London Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera). This is also true. But there is a difference between ‘select’ and ‘invent’. Atta, who in my opinion epitomizes the heart of a very frustrated Arab/Muslim street, was already there for the taking. If bin Laden did not select him, somebody else would have. Atta himself – like many of today’s terrorists and wannabes – had the capacity for self-selection. Luckily for him, he did not…

TERRORISM SALON: Peter Bergen on Atta’s Selection

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(Peter Bergen is a Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation). I agree with much of Yosri’s post. But Bin Laden selected Atta to run the 9/11 operation. This is what effective leaders do. Select the right people to carry out their plans. — Peter Bergen This week long terrorism salon will continue to be hosted by The Washington Note and UN Dispatch.

TERRORISM SALON: Yosri Fouda on the Pivotal Role of the Mohammed Atta’s

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(Yosri Fouda is the Chief Investigative Correspondent and Former London Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera). Though I would largely agree with Peter as to the importance of bin Laden’s figure, I would not say that without him “9/11 would have been one of many harebrained schemes in the head of KSM.” I would not even dare say that without KSM 9/11 would have been a distant dream surrounded by green birds in Ramzi Bin al Shibh’s heart. Should we use this…

TERRORISM SALON: Peter Bergen on Prime Movers in History

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(Peter Bergen is a Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation). I have, perhaps, an old-fashioned view of history and just as it is hard to explain why the French were in Moscow in 1812 without Napoleon, and the rise of the Nazi party is inextricably linked to the views and personality of Hitler, its just not possible to understand al Qaeda, what it is and what it has done, without understanding bin Laden. Without him al Qaeda simply…

TERRORISM SALON: Matthew Levitt on OBL vs. AQ

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(Matthew Levitt is a Senior fellow and Director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy). Peter’s is an excellent article. I’d submit, however, that it conflates Bin Laden with al Qaeda and I increasingly wonder if perhaps al Qaeda the organization has outgrown Bin Laden the man. After all, a persistent AQ threat does not mean Bin Laden is still calling the shots. Sadly, if it’s true that the organization has…

TERRORISM SALON: Peter Bergen on Why bin Laden Still Matters

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(Peter Bergen is a Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation). Some of the issues in the final discussion I tried to address in a story for TIME earlier this month, so rather than rewriting that story I’m pasting it in below: Does Osama bin Laden matter anymore? You could be forgiven for thinking he doesn’t. In recent months, an impressive cast of terrorism experts and counterterrorism officials around the world has coalesced around the notion that al-Qaeda’s leader…

TERRORISM SALON: Paul Cruickshank on the Limits of Home-Grown Cells

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(Paul Cruickshank is a Fellow at the NYU Center on Law and Security). Although there have undoubtedly been more plots launched by home-grown cells in the West since 9/11 than by Al Qaeda, the evidence suggests that the most dangerous plots, such as the July 2005 London bombings and the 2006 airlines plot, have all been directed by Al Qaeda. Although Matt Levitt is right to point out that the genesis of the Madrid bombings remains somewhat murky, there is…