Know Thy Enemy

Via Kriston, I see Doubleday is taking fire for their decision to publish an al-Qa'eda Reader. The book would consist of translations of tracts penned by the organization's leaders with all profits going to charity. Of course, the usual outcry is emerging, and it's only a matter of time till O'Reilly pops a blood vessel over it, but I'll be first in line to buy a copy. Years ago, Mein Kampf became the top seller in Germany, with the government giving a copy to every newlywed couple and readers lining up in bookstores to purchase what was quickly becoming a must-have for all "proper" Germans. The book was nothing but the ramblings and theories of Hitler, distilled onto the page but retaining all their hatred, paranoia, bigotry and enormity. Had other countries taken a careful look at the tome, maybe stopping Hitler would've seemed less a diplomatic breach and more an overriding priority. But we didn't, and so we understood neither the German agenda nor the depths to which Hitler and his people were willing to go to actualize it.

Similarly, bin-Laden's tracts are read all across the Middle East, distributed in every town and cafe. Those of his deputies and Lieutenants find similar life across the region. They have long been a primary point of contact between al-Qaeda and the populaces they claim to represent, and they've thus helped shape local opinion towards Islamic Jihadis and bin-Laden himself. If Americans are too damn afraid to confront what they might say, then, just as in Germany, we won't understand them until it's too late. But if we head in the other direction and take a close look, we may learn a hell of a lot about where al-Qaeda finds their support and where they try and shore up weaknesses. And that, of course, will make us stronger.