WEEKLY STANDARD contributing editor Reuel Marc Gerecht weighs in this morning with a piece in the Wall Street Journal on how "killing of Shiites in Iraq was Bin Laden's undoing in the eyes of many Muslims":
Bin Laden, who believed that only the most virtuous had the right to rule over the community, was undone by his love of violence. He pushed it too far: Slaughtering innocent Africans in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 was tolerable since the targets were American embassies (and black Muslim Africans were too far from the Arab world to compel a scathing moral critique). Killing American sailors on the USS Cole in the port of Aden was praiseworthy since no modern Muslim power had ever so humbled an American man-of-war. And destroying the Twin Towers and punching a hole in the Pentagon was just astonishing.
But then came the slaughter that could not be ignored, as al Qaeda affiliates started killing in Muslim lands. The suicide bombers who hit Casablanca in 2003 and Amman in 2005 made an impact. But the war in Iraq was bin Laden's great moral undoing.
Iraq was supposed to be where al Qaeda and other "good Muslims" broke the American back. Instead the carnage there, carried in all its gore by Arabic satellite channels, produced a backlash. There was a limit to the number of Shiite women and children that Sunni Arabs could see murdered. Blowing up hospitals, mosques and shrines—even Shiite ones—became too ghastly to sublimate into an acceptable war against the Americans.
For more, see Reuel Marc Gerecht's cover story on Barack Obama and the Arab Spring in the current issue WEEKLY STANDARD. And be sure and subscribe the magazine so you don't miss out on the latest Middle East analysis.