William Saletan makes some useful observations in Slate (thanks to EPG):
The terror talk and the compass points are just two of the patterns in al-Qaida’s post-attack messages. A third is the pairing of Iraq with Afghanistan. A fourth is the punishment theme, which deflects blame from them to us. But the most telling pattern is a constant distinction between the “people” of the West and their governments. Last year, the bombers hit Madrid, hoping to turn Spaniards against their government and force a pullout of Spanish troops from Iraq. It worked. Now they’re trying to do the same to the Brits and the rest of the G8.
In April 2002, al-Qaida took credit for bombing a Tunisian synagogue. It said the attack was in part “a reprisal for [Arab] governments’ refusal to allow their peoples to launch jihad against the Jews.” In October 2002, al-Qaida claimed responsibility for blowing up an oil tanker in Yemen. It charged that the U.S. government and its allies had “deluded themselves and their people.” A month later, Bin Laden touted “the killing of Germans in Tunisia and the French in Karachi, the bombing of the giant French tanker in Yemen, the killing of marines in [Kuwait] and the British and Australians in the Bali explosions, the recent operation in Moscow.” He asked citizens of these countries, “What do your governments want from their alliance with America in attacking us in Afghanistan?”…
Bin Laden’s whole game plan is to turn the people of the democratic world against their governments. He thinks democracies are weak because their people, who are more easily frightened than their governments, can bring those governments down. He doesn’t understand that this flexibility””and this trust””are why democracies will live, while he will die. Many of us didn’t vote for Bush’s government or Blair’s. But we’re loyal to them, in part because we were given a voice in choosing them. And if we don’t like our governments, we can vote them out. We can’t vote out terrorists. We can only kill them.