A parody of Larry Lessig's Anti-trusting Microsoft. This won't make much sense unless you read that first.
Osama has a John Cleese problem. Repeatedly he has blown up ships, buildings and boats and each time he has escaped capture. Thus, quite understandably, the world trembles every time Osama moves.
This is bad, and not just for Osama. I've long criticized his failure to talk straight about his goals, but there are more issues out there than whether Osama will attack again. And by obsessing on this one problem, we miss the ways Osama could help solve others.
The fury about his announcement of randomized American kidnappings is a perfect example. If it works as designed, Osama's agents will begin stealing children from homes all over America. And for anyone who has tried to keep their children from looking at adult websites, this doesn't sound all bad.
Osama has thus sold kidnappings in the name of protection and security. But commentators have quickly skipped over these parts, focusing instead on whether the kidnappings would enable Osama to strike again. The plan, these commentators argue, will give Osama more control over America; it could strike fear into the hearts of everyday Americans. Kidnapping is no protection, these commentators insist.
These are valid concerns, but they obscure something important about how kidnapping could change the debate about terrorism. Kidnapping children could enable a different kind of terrorism--indeed, I would say, a "better terrorism"--one less damaging to our skyline and more supportive of American businesses.
The difference could be crucial to building design: if Osama could capture these children, there would be little need to knock down skyscrapers. Businesses, for example, depend upon having offices to work. Knocking them down defeats this design; kidnapping operations that respect the parents need not.
No doubt "better terrorism" raises hard policy questions. Would kidnapping adequately protect "freedom"? (Probably not.) Is "better terrorism" preferable to no terrorism at all? (Certainly not.)
But these questions are distinct from the criminal accusations that hound Osama. They are obscured as long as the world jumps whenever Osama moves. Yet so long as Osama lives by denial, it will be known only by what it denies--regardless of any good built into its designs.