Mr. Zawahiri, an Egyptian cleric, is haughty and droning with little of bin Laden’s ability to inspire others to carry out terrible deeds. All this makes bin Laden’s death a loss for the traditional core of Al Qaeda based in Pakistan.
But in the final years of his life, bin Laden’s “charisma” was reaching smaller and smaller fractions of young Muslims, turned off by the group’s bloodthirsty reputation and looking for solutions to their nations’ problems that didn’t involve restoring a medieval Islamic caliphate.
“The fact is, al-Qaeda had already been effectively marginalized within the mainstream of the Arab world long before bin Laden died,” writes Marc Lynch, a political science professor at George Washington University. “His death removes the only al-Qaeda figure still able to speak effectively to that Arab mainstream, and marks the end of an era of Arab politics which had already largely faded away. Al-Qaeda's marginalization in Arab politics has been developing for a long time, and will only be further advanced by bin Laden's death.”