al-Qaeda, the Brand: Asia Times' Pepe Escobar writes on al-Qaeda's expansion ("franchising") and global brand management, concluding that "Bin Laden is laughing: Bush's crusade has legitimized an obscure sect as a worldwide symbol of political revolt. How could bin Laden not vote for Bush?"
Old-style al-Qaeda might well be pulverized by the Pentagon any time. But "al-Qaeda", the brand, lives, whatever the Bush administration spin. Zarqawi is the best example: he may not even be directly linked to bin Laden anymore, and he is now the sole boss of his own terrorist cottage industry.

..."Al-Qaeda" the brand has now embarked on an inexorable logic of expansion - in flagrant contradiction to Bush's assertion that the world is safer. Al-Qaeda will keep deepening its alliances with ethnic ande nationalist movements - with Shamil Basayev, the emir of the mujahideen in Chechnya and trainer of the Black Widow squadrons of female suicide bombers, or with sectors of the Iraqi resistance in the Sunni triangle. "Global" al-Qaeda in all these cases works and will continue to work as a sort of "Foreign Legion", as French scholar Olivier Roy puts it, a capable military vanguard that is useful for local purposes for a determined period of time.

"Global" al-Qaeda may also even profit from the fact that national liberation movements, in desperation, decide to go on an all-out offensive, improving their alliances of circumstance with al-Qaeda. The al-Qaeda brand is also becoming attractive to scattered sectors of the extreme left, because more than appealing to radical Islam, al-Qaeda has succeeded in branding its image as the revolutionary vanguard in the fight against American imperialism. The cross-fertilization between radical Islam and disfranchised Muslim youth born and raised in the West is also performing wonders: when young people convert to Islam in a dreary suburb of Brussels, Paris, Hamburg or Madrid, it all has to do with political anger rather than discovering a direct line to Allah.

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