A quote from a thoughtful KoW post:
"I also agree with something Bruce Berkowitz wrote about Bin Laden years ago in his book The New Face of War: ‘History will not portray Osama bin Laden as a mere terrorist, rather instructors at West Point and Annapolis will cite him as one of the first military commanders to use a new kind of combat organization in a successful operation.’ There’s no contradiction here; Bin Laden joins a long list of military innovators who fought in lost causes. The advantage of being first is often fleeting and I think, hope earnestly, that that is what is happening here."
Although I certainly agree about novelty, it does make more sense to see OBL's organization and leadership in evolutionary rather than revolutionary terms, much like Mao himself evolved as one species higher than Leninist urban revolution. I do, however, think that the term "military" fits even if Bin Laden was never a "soldier" in the Western sense and more of a murderous and rapacious bandit.
Al-Qaeda, in its original incarnation on the eve of its 2001-2002 rout from Afghanistan was explicitly organized along military lines, with a set of operational commanders and a system of discipline and an emerging, if embryonic idea of "military science." It was never as formalized, say, as Hezbollah or the IRA and PIRA, but such a system existed. Al-Qaeda's transformation into a looser, more decentralized group is the subject of much debate and I look forward to reading Leah Farrell's thesis on the subject.