We think of war fighters as using violence to seize property and power, but Bin Laden seemed to regard murder as a subdivision of brand management. It was a way to inspire the fund-raising networks, dominate the news and manipulate meaning.
In short, Osama Bin Laden seemed to live in an ethereal, postmodern world of symbols and signifiers and also a cruel murderous world of rage and humiliation. Even the most brilliant intelligence analyst could not anticipate such an odd premodern and postglobalized creature, or could imagine that such a creature would gain such power.
I just wish there were a democratic Bin Laden, that amid all the Arab hunger for dignity and freedom there was another inexplicable person with the ability to frame narratives and propel action — for good, not evil.