The Case for Mocking Al Qaeda.

Over at the Atlantic, Daniel Byman and Christine Fair explain that today's brand of terrorist may be even dumber than we realized:

Nowhere is the gap between sinister stereotype and ridiculous reality more apparent than in Afghanistan, where it's fair to say that the Taliban employ the world's worst suicide bombers: one in two manages to kill only himself. ... [I]n many cultures, a manly embrace is a time-honored tradition for warriors before they go off to face death. Thus, many suicide bombers never even make it out of their training camp or safe house, as the pressure from these group hugs triggers the explosives in suicide vests. According to several sources at the United Nations, as many as six would-be suicide bombers died last July after one such embrace in Paktika.

This is an argument I've made before: Terrorists who hate America can be very dangerous, and they can kill people. But they're not super-villains who can bust their colleagues out of supermax prisons or bring about the downfall of American civilization. The more we describe them as though they were, the more we help them. So as Byman and Fair say, why not start calling them nitwits?

-- Paul Waldman

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