There are good reasons why bin Laden has already lasted three times longer on the lam than did Saddam.
- Bin Laden forwards an ideology larger than himself, militant Islam. Saddam forwarded only Saddamism, a cult of personality. This means that whereas Bin Laden can find refuge among tens of millions of like-minded comrades, Saddam in the end was alone.
- Bin Laden could be hiding in many countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, or even Egypt or India. Saddam could rely on no such network.
- Bin Laden has not ruled a country, much less has he done so ruthlessly, so he lacks the millions of die-hard enemies Saddam has made over the years.
And two other thoughts come to mind:
- Saddam's capture effectively ends the Saddamist insurgency, as there is nothing to fight for once he is in captivity. Bin Laden's capture would be a symbolic victory for U.S. forces but would not materially affect the militant Islamic movement, which is far larger than any one person (note how little difference the death of Ayatollah Khomeini made in 1989).
- Conversely, Saddam's capture will not much affect the insurgency in Iraq, which draws its inspiration mostly from militant Islam, not a desire to return a thug to power. The major effect of his capture will be to cause many Iraqis to breathe more easily and believe that they really have left the totalitarian past behind. (December 14, 2003)
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