With al-Qaeda’s quasi-endorsement of John McCain in the upcoming presidential election, the McCain campaign is trying to ‘even the score’ by bringing up some pro-Obama remarks made by Hamas a few months ago.

In fact, of course, the comparison is stupid and the idea that we should see how many terrorist groups favor this or that candidate misses the central issue here. Hamas has never considered itself in conflict with the US. Its sole struggle is against Israel, either to establish a Palestinian homeland in the occupied territories (its de facto goal), or to destroy Israel altogether (its de jure goal). What they seek to moderate is hardline Israeli policy towards the Palestinians and they figure, rightly I think, that McCain would be more of an enabler to the intrasigent Israeli hawks like Netanyahu than would Obama. So their preference for Obama, if indeed they have one, is a perfectly rational piece of political calculation which is, at the very least, arguably sound, if it is not obviously so.

Al-Qaeda, by contrast, is at war with the US. But it is no ordinary conflict. It is rather an apocalyptic struggle in which they cast the US as evil and themselves as good. This kind of war cannot be fought against an enemy that does not share the same conception of the struggle, especially when the sides are so dramatically mismatched as they are in this case. Al-qaeda would come across as hysterical and, well, silly (though of course still very dangerous) unless it could get the enemy, the US, to think of itself as good and al-Qaeda as evil.

That is precisely why Bush has been the best president ever for al-Qaeda. He shares their silly world view and engages with them at just the level they want. He confirms their sense of themselves as agents in the apocalypse. McCain would obviously be preferrable for them just because he, much more than Obama, shares this silly Manicheanism. He won’t be as good for them as Bush because with McCain, the religious overtones seem pretty clearly to be faked, whereas with Bush, they were completely genuine. But he would be much, much better than the level-headed, sensible, unflappable Obama. If nothing else, the presidential debates would have convinced al-Qaeda that McCain was their man.

To vote for Obama would not be to support Hamas; it would be to support peace in the Middle East. To vote for McCain would be to vote for the apocalypse.