Thus we have spent billions of dollars and the blood of our citizens in rescuing Muslims from brutal dictators, building schools and highways, promoting economic development, and bringing democracy to Muslim countries.

But all this effort will not “win instant love” for the United States, as The New York Timesparaphrased our motives in a story about a failing $1.5 billion aid effort in Pakistan.

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Bin Laden and al Qaeda made tactical errors in Afghanistan by brutally attacking Muslims, and that misstep, not their so-called distortion of Islam, eroded their support. But the idea of jihad against the infidel still resonates with millions of Muslims worldwide. Until we accept that truth, and until we stop appeasing the enemy with our groveling rhetoric and our foreign aid, the demise of bin Laden will not do much to convince the Islamists and their supporters that they can never win.

Bruce S. Thornton is chair of the Humanities Department at California State University and the author of several books including “Searching for Joaquin: Myth and History in California.”

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