Why Bin Laden Is No Longer America’s “No. 1 Enemy”

Diluting the symbolic significance of bin Laden has become a strategy for psychological warfare.

Entering a new year, the Obama administration has declared a lot of new claims; besides the statement to revitalize the economy, the most striking claim was from the National Counterterrorism Center on Feb. 9, which announced that the greatest threat to America’s national security is no longer al-Qaida’s founder Osama bin Laden, but a Yemeni Islamic preacher, Anwar al-Awlaki.

It should be said that Obama has “washed off” the former Bush administration’s agenda with considerable effort; it has not only changed the subject from Iraq to Afghanistan, but also replaced its top enemy bin Laden with Anwar al-Awlaki.

Every dog has its day. In fact, bin Laden’s replacement stems from America’s counter-terrorism needs. Regarding this “personnel change,” NCTC stated that the reason for al-Awlaki’s replacement of bin Laden was that the former is adept in recruiting terrorists in America. It is said that Anwar al-Awlaki can speak English, so he can communicate with Americans, and he can publicize his opinions through the Internet. These traits of al-Awlaki make U.S. citizens consider him a more terrifying symbol than bin Laden.

Homegrown terrorism has become America’s mortal malady; terrorists who are rated as “America-savvy” are thorns in the flesh to Americans. Prior to this, the FBI claimed that al-Qaida’s new “America-savvy” leader Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah has lived in the U.S. for 15 years and carries a green card. American investigators said that Shukrijumah has made attacking America his “life goal,” and he knows the American system and lifestyle very well. Before joining al-Qaida, he was a student in community college who loved computer science and chemistry courses. These are hallmarks of people who are most likely to initiate terrorist attacks within America.

It is worth mentioning that last month bin Laden called on France to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the release of French hostages through a recording; otherwise he would “attack French targets at home or abroad.” A few days ago, the French intelligence agency released a memo which said that over 100 Europeans were being trained by al-Qaida in the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

However, the relegation of bin Laden to second place doesn’t mean that he’s not important. From the psychological perspective of counter-terrorism, bin Laden has become a symbol whose influence will be difficult to eradicate in the short term, and fighting against a “symbol” is much harder than fighting against the organizational entity of al-Qaida. In view of this, diluting the symbolic significance of bin Laden has become a strategy for psychological warfare. Apart from this, the U.S. has been hunting Bin Laden for 10 years without any luck, and they have learned that continuing to hunt him down will do no good except to painfully increase the embarrassment of the U.S. government.

From a strategic point of view, fighting against a “symbol” is much less effective than combating a man of “practical action.” Although bin Laden postures himself against the U.S. every once in a while, terrorist activities in recent years have mostly been implemented by his assistants; he simply maintains enough influence and control. In this aspect, bin Laden has been a considerable headache for the U.S.

From the viewpoint of the upcoming elections, the Obama administration has replaced the “No. 1 headache” with al-Awlaki out of fear that al-Awlaki will threaten homeland security. If so, Obama will lose the votes of those who place a premium on homeland security. In the face of the current economic crisis, this is inconceivable.

By Zhang Guoqing (from Watching America.com)

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