July 9, 2005

Strategic Defeat For The Genius

Jonathan V. Last, online editor for The Weekly Standard and Galley Slaves blogger, deserves to be quoted at length from the latest Standard newsletter. His "Last Word" pieces should be online somewhere. Why not here?

There is a certain strain of expert who believes that Osama bin Laden is a political genius who is using terrorism to accomplish political aims. If true, it follows that, while the West should pursue Islamist terrorists militarily, we should also seek politically to alleviate the conditions which so inflame them.

Okay, let's just name names--I'm talking about Michael Scheuer who suggests in his books that bin Laden is a genius on par with America's Founding Fathers and that in order to win the war on terrorism, America needs to stop agitating Islamists by stationing troops in Saudi Arabia, going to war in Iraq, helping Israel defend itself, etc. There is a respectable branch of opinion which concurs with Mr. Scheuer.

So let's start at the beginning: Just how smart is Osama bin Laden? For almost two decades bin Laden was allowed to run amok, conducting his own private guerilla war against America and the West. His political aims, if you took them at face value, were to get American troops out of Saudi Arabia, to preserve the religious integrity of the Hijaz, and to punish America for supporting Israel with the eventual hope that Israel could be disappeared and its Jews scrubbed from the Holy Land.

During this time, bin Laden and his cohorts scored a number of tactical victories--the USS Cole, the African embassy bombings--all culminating with the attacks of September 11. But those attacks have proved to be an enormous strategic failure for bin Laden. America decided to finally take him at his word and wage a reciprocal war. A coalition of Western allies invaded and democratized first Afghanistan and then Iraq.

So now when bin Laden's minions mete out death and destruction their demand for this or that country is that they get out of Afghanistan or Iraq. In other words, even if bin Laden's latest attacks somehow achieved their political aims, all he would have accomplished would be returning to the status quo of 15 years ago. Osama bin Laden has been successful as a tactician, but by his own lights, his leadership can only be judged a drastic strategic failure. If he really believes in his stated goals, he is further away from achieving them today than he has been at any time since the first Gulf War.

This isn't quite Washington or Jefferson territory we're talking about here. If bin Laden has any American analog, it might be Chief Sitting Bull.

And if bin Laden isn't a genius, the way Scheuer et al suggest, there is also no reason to believe that if their stated political aims were accommodated they would lay down their bombs and stop slaughtering innocents.

In the coming days you are likely to hear that England was targeted because of its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Anyone who buys this line should be ridden out of town on a rail. Terrorists kill people. It's who they are; it's what they do. They don't need provocations and their "reasoning" is, contra Scheuer, post facto. The people of Bali weren't fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was no Iraq and Afghanistan on September 11, or at Khobar Towers.

If the Western allies pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow, there would still be attacks for some other slight--maybe the affront of having troops in Saudi Arabia. If our Zionist infidel troops left the Saudis, there would still be attacks because there are Jews in the Holy Land. If the Jews were pushed into the sea, there would still be attacks because there are Gucci stores in Riyadh. It never ends. And so we should care not at all why these monsters claim they are making war against us (and by "us," I mean we who uphold the principles of Western liberalism, be we in New York, London, Paris, Toronto, or Melbourne).

Some people have been slow to come around to this realization. But more and more of them will do so in the coming days. That's why yesterday's attacks on London were a barbarity, yes, but for bin Laden and his monsters, they were also another important strategic defeat.

Posted by dan at July 9, 2005 1:19 AM