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From the comments of an Abu Aardvark post: "Subjectively speaking, I think we (the US) had a lot more respect for the Soviet Union than we do for Islamists and their allies"

This rings true. I can't work out what it proves, but I'd love to be able to. I would have expected al-Qaeda to get a lot of respect, through being caricatured as an comic-book evil genius. Instead, it seems the stereotype has stuck to evil, without any of the genius.

Why? Do the powers that be have less respect for non-state actors? Is it because nobody reads Arabic, so we can't understand their cunning plans? Have we got so hung up on the 'they hate us because we're free' angle that we're blind to the Cunning Plans they do have? Is it objectively true that the leaders of al-Qaeda are less cunning than the old men in the Kremlin?

And what are the consequences of this different stereotype on how the USA (and Britain, by extension) behave?

Also: yes, I know I'm posting a ridiculous amount today. I had one of those moments where I did a word count on my 'notes too shoddy to put anywhere', and decided that 400,000 words of notes kept to myself is utterly useless. I apologise to my lone reader for inflicting all this on you - I still have a vague hope that one day I'll find the right balance between hoarding information and inflicting all my crap on people.