Courtesy Reuters

From the Archives: Osama bin Laden's Legacy

By The Editors

As the world comes to terms with the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, reflects on his legacy, and wonders what comes next, we are pleased to present this collection of articles from the Foreign Affairs archives, tracing in real time the evolution of bin Laden’s organization and the threat it has posed.

"License to Kill: Usama bin Ladin’s Declaration of Jihad." By Bernard Lewis. Foreign Affairs, November/December. (1998)
"Somebody Else’s Civil War." By Michael Scott Doran. Foreign Affairs, January/February. (2002)
"The Sentry’s Solitude." By Fouad Ajami. Foreign Affairs, November/December. (2001)

Al Qaeda emerged at the end of the 1980s and gathered strength during the 1990s. In 1998, bin Laden released a little-noticed declaration of war on the United States, decrying the U.S. presence in the Middle East and calling on Muslims to wage jihad against Americans. Writing just months after the declaration was released, Bernard Lewis called it a distortion of Islam but noted that some Muslims would agree with bin Laden -- and, he warned, "terrorism requires only a few." Three years later, in a classic article written just after the 9/11 attacks, Michael Doran described what the attackers were thinking, explaining that the United States had become entangled in a "civil war" between extremists and moderates for influence over the world’s Muslims. And Fouad Ajami argued that the United States should not have been surprised that U.S. primacy in the Middle East "begot its own nemesis."

"A Flawed Masterpiece." By Michael E. O’Hanlon. Foreign Affairs, May/June. (2002)
"The Protean Enemy." By Jessica Stern. Foreign Affairs, July/August. (2003)
"Is There Still a Terrorist Threat? The Myth of the Omnipresent Enemy." By John Mueller. Foreign Affairs, September/October (2006)
"Are We Safe Yet?" By Paul R. Pillar, Fawaz A. Gerges, Jessica Stern, James Fallows, and John Mueller., (September 7, 2006)

Within weeks of 9/11, the United States was battling al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In his analysis of the Afghan campaign, Michael O’Hanlon noted

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