Osama bin Laden was not a religious leader. Wearing the cloth of Jimmy Swaggert and other charlatans familiar to all American late-night television viewers, bin Laden used a vague knowledge of Islam to highlight precepts that fit his maniacal view of the world. Masterfully, he ignored the parts that didn't fit his agenda, and the world swallowed the bait.
Like every cult and insane religious group, bin Laden targeted the disenfranchised and disenchanted and gave them something to believe in. The fact that what he gave them to believe in was a lie didn't matter at the time. What Hitler gave a war-ravaged Germany raped by a barbaric peace treaty didn't matter - at first. Humankind is rife with examples of power vacuums being filled by men who carried nothing more than evil in their hearts.
What bin Laden preached was not religion, yet his followers are blind to that. In fact the West is blind as well. This perpetuates the cycle of disenfranchisement, myopic foreign policy and mistrust. It's a hamster wheel we all desperately need to get off of.
To those paying attention, watching with their own intellects and not through the filters of the Angry Right and Naive Left in this country, the Arab Spring finally offers hope for the world to jump off the hamster wheel.
Sure the news of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is troubling, but it was not unexpected. And the power with which Assad has continued to crush the revolution in Syria dims hope in even the most optimistic observer. More troubling still is the Saudi role in controlling the outcome of the revolution in Bahrain. In the short term things don't look too promising, but it took 100 years to put the Middle East where it is today, and it will take a lot longer than one season to put the region on the path to freedom.
Osama bin Laden and his ilk exist because the young and disenfranchised were unable to channel their desires for freedom anywhere else. And scream all you want, but the US and the West have helped them by supporting the very despots who controlled them. The God-given yearning for freedom and peace are now openly embraced in a region that historically answers those desires with violence and oppression. If people are confident they control their own destinies, then thieves and liars like bin Laden have nowhere to ply their trade. Ditto for the despots who claim authority.
The Arab Spring matters, because whenever one neighborhood improves its lot in life, every other adjoining neighborhood shares in the result. The Social Media Age has taught us that every neighborhood on Earth is only as far away as a poke on the ENTER key.