George W. Bush's neoconservative administration and Osama bin Laden's messianic terrorist organization may, in a perverse way, have deserved each other, argues French scholar Gilles Kepel. But in his new book, "Beyond Terror and Martyrdom," Kepel suggests the rest of us can do better than vaguely defined wars striving to impose deluded ideas of democracy on the Middle East, not to speak of atavistic designs for Muslim glory built around a cult of suicide.
The Idea: Both Bush and bin Laden, Kepel argues, staked their claim to power on the eradication of evil (each other) and the creation of an idealized state, whether a God-fearing democracy or a pious caliphate. Both embraced violence to pursue those ends. Neither succeeded; together they created "an endless shared nightmare."
The Evidence: Nairobi, the U.S.S. Cole, 9/11, Bali, Madrid, London, Mumbai, Afghanistan, Iraq, renditions, Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram.
The Conclusion: "The war between George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden defeated both of its protagonists," Kepel writes, and President Bush's successor "will have to bury the grand narrative of the war on terror." America's best ally in building a new future for the Middle East will be Europe, with the proven model of its own peaceful union. Pair that with the human energy of the Mediterranean region and the oil money of the Gulf, and you have a combination that promises peace and prosperity.