Washington Post columnist David Ignatius was recently given an early look at captured documents from Osama bin Laden’s compound that will be publicly released shortly, and he reports that near the end bin Laden was apparently obsessed with the last resort of failed CEOs everywhere: rebranding.
Bin Laden’s biggest concern was al-Qaeda’s media image among Muslims. He worried that it was so tarnished that, in a draft letter probably intended for [Atiyah Abd al-Rahman], he argued that the organization should find a new name.
The al-Qaeda brand had become a problem, Bin Laden explained, because Obama administration officials “have largely stopped using the phrase ‘the war on terror’ in the context of not wanting to provoke Muslims,” and instead promoted a war against al-Qaeda. The organization’s full name was “Qaeda al-Jihad,” bin Laden noted, but in its shorthand version, “this name reduces the feeling of Muslims that we belong to them.” He proposed 10 alternatives “that would not easily be shortened to a word that does not represent us.” His first recommendation was “Taifat al-tawhid wal-jihad,” or Monotheism and Jihad Group.
So there you have it. Deep-sixing the “war on terror” rhetoric really did hurt al-Qaeda. And bin Laden’s only answer was to change their name to the Monotheism and Jihad Group. Somehow I don’t think that would have done the trick.