Foreign Policy

The Secret Victory of Osama Bin Laden

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Jon Basil Utley lays out the ways in which Osama Bin Laden defeated the United States of America. While absent later revelations it's hard to say for sure it was all part of a preconceived fiendish plan (some elements of what Utley lists are probably of far less importance than the basic fiscal problems–for example, I'm not sure an undistracted D.C. would have done more good for America in the past decade, and American religious fundamentalists can probably get a pass for most of our worst troubles), it seems effective. Some observations from Utley:

Osama bin Laden sure knows his Sun Tzu and the basics of jujitsu. Sun Tzu's famous dictum was "know yourself" and "know your enemy." Jujitsu is based upon using your enemy's strength against him, e.g., like Jack in "Jack and the Beanstalk," who used the giant's own size and anger to get him to crash from his own weight. Bin Laden understood that the way to beat America was to turn its power back upon itself. His early stated aim was to bankrupt America. He knew his own weaknesses, and he profoundly understood America's, how its pride and fears could trigger irrational, self-destructive reactions. The genius of bin Laden's pinprick attacks, costing a few hundred thousand dollars, has left America reeling with two unending multi-trillion-dollar wars it doesn't know how to get out of…..

…..financing the wars with debt was the final straw that broke the camel's back. No one knew how much debt would break America, but doubling the national debt from $5 trillion to $10 trillion, with new trillions being borrowed now, finally did it….

…war spending deficits were in effect a massive Keynesian pump-priming operation, bound in the end to leave an economic hangover. Wars make the economy boom with seeming prosperity, but they are actually incredible wastes of resources. Over $200 million for each new fighter plane, $1,000 a day for mercenaries, massive corruption and incompetence in the military occupation – even bin Laden could not have anticipated how costly the war would become.

Back in Reason magazine's May 2008 issue, Veronique De Rugy wrote about how the war on terror became a trillion dollar war.

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  1. He defeated us by cadavering up?

  2. Depressing, but true.

  3. He learned it from Ronald Reagan.

  4. He learned it from Ronald Reagan.

    True in more ways than one.

  5. Of course Obama is just going to up the war in Afghanistan. Yeah sure, that worked real well for the Soviets!

  6. I learned it from watching you, Dad!

  7. e.g., like Jack in “Jack and the Beanstalk,” who used the giant’s own size and anger to get him to crash from his own weight.

    Utley explains that the bad guy knows jujitsu. Then he explains the basic, simple idea behind jujitsu. Then he explains how that idea is just like how Jack defeated the giant. Remember that story, kids?! Remember how BIG the giant was?!

    Don’t think much of your readers, do you Utley?

  8. Don’t think much of your readers, do you Utley?

    Actually, it’s a simple and useful technique of triangulating a concept with metaphors, hoping that at least one of them any given audience member will be familiar.

    After all, most of the time, you’ll have no idea who’s reading what you write.

  9. Well, he kind of lost me when he attributed the economic crisis to the cost of the wars. Whatever happened to the housing bubble, banking collapse, etc.?

    Didn’t we just commit more in three months to bail-outs than we spent on both wars since 9/11?

    I’m also curious as to his assertion that we are in two wars that we don’t know how to get out of. First, I think a case could be made that, whatever the current state in Iraq, it isn’t a war. Second, I think the exit strategy for Iraq is pretty well in place and underway, as documented in the SOFA.

    I will freely grant that Obama has spent a lot less on this fight than we have. I’m having a hard time seeing as how he has won his fight with us. He has been driven out of Afghanistan and Iraq, with governments in both states that are not exactly on his side. Tens of thousands who answered his call are dead as doornails.

    I would say that, if any of our opponents in the Mideast have done well out of all this, it would be Iran, not OBL.

  10. I don’t normally do this but . . .

    THREADJACK!!!!!

    Apparently one of the detainees from Guantanamo Bay is suing the US. And by US I mean us!

  11. I will freely grant that Obama has spent a lot less on this fight than we have.

    Oopsie.

  12. Remember how BIG the giant was?!

    Andre the Giant big?

    “We face each other as God intended. Sportsmanlike. No tricks, no weapons, skill against skill alone.”

    “You mean, you’ll put down your rock and I’ll put down my sword, and we’ll try and kill each other like civilized people?”

  13. Unemployment is 7.2%. People are saying that it might go as high as 9%. In November 1982 it was 10.8%. In 1984 it was “Morning in America.” Excuse me, but I don’t hear America breaking. Osama’s the one living in a cave.

  14. R C Dean,

    Your missing the point:

    America is big dumb and stupid. And Osama is oh so smart!

    Did I mention that America is big dumb and stupid?

  15. Obama is going to tear his party apart over Afghanistan, mark my words.

  16. He has been driven out of Afghanistan and Iraq, with governments in both states that are not exactly on his side.

    And large populaces not exactly on our side, either. Haven’t we been down this road before?

    Tens of thousands who answered his call are dead as doornails.

    And tens of thousands who had nothing to do with his call are dead, too. Oops.

    If anything, Osama may have overestimated the US. Did he really anticipate that, as a result of his actions, the US would invade the wrong country?

  17. Didn’t we just commit more in three months to bail-outs than we spent on both wars since 9/11?

    Yes.

  18. “I will freely grant that Obama has spent a lot less on this fight than we have.

    Oopsie.”

    No. True as well. Obama has spent nothing.

  19. it’s a simple and useful technique of triangulating a concept with metaphors

    The technique is simple and useful. Utley was condescending and/or extremely pedantic.

    If, however, Utley thought there was a chance that seven-year-olds might be reading his piece on AntiWar.com and that that was the one concept they’d struggle with, then I’ll grant you the win.

    Otherwise, we’ll need to settle it Epi’s way.

  20. Okay. Got the link finally. Clicky.

  21. Damn links! One more time.

  22. Everything I’ve read has said Osama hoped to draw us into a ground war in Afghanistan. Invading Iraq concurrent with occupying Afghanistan was an own goal for the history books.

    I am not hopeful for Afghanistan. President Obama does not seem to understand how much the people there hate foreign occupiers, nor the extent to which what success we have in the past achieved in Afghanistan was due to our small footprint. All this talk of a “surge for Afghanistan” is a bit scary. We need to modify the old canard. The truth is that Americans learn geography not just by fighting wars, but by loosing them. How many Americans can find Kandahar on a map? I guarantee, that number will rise dramatically over the next few years.

  23. I used to think that Osama had badly miscalculated, thinking he could goad us into a doomed, Soviet-style occupation and counterinsurgency in “the Graveyard of Empires.” Our strategy of using a light footprint of air power and special forces to support the Northern Alliance as THEY (for the most part) drove the Taliban out of power, seized the capital and countryside, and routed the al Qaedists seemed well-designed to deny the bin Ladensits the territory and resources of a sovereign state, and kill a lot of them.

    But then it became apparent that Bush intended to establish a long-term occupation, including a counter-insurgency, in not just Afghanistan, but also in Iraq, another country Osama identified as being ideal for fighting Americans.

    Now that we’re there, and the situation is deteriorating, it might make sense to send in a surge of troops to avoid a military setback, but this is a tactical question. Strategically, they’re going to bleed us white if we stay over the long term, just like they did the Soviets.

    BDB,

    Most Democrats have been calling for more attention and troops in Afghanistan for a long time. I think Obama’s got considerable lattitude to do what he thinks is necessary there in the short term, and will only split his electoral base if he commits, Johnson-style, to a big, long-term American presence.

  24. In broad strokes I agree with the basic assessment of Osama’s strategy. The goal of terrorism is not the destruction it causes, but the destruction the response to it causes.

    Osama’s attacks were an attempt to get the US to show what he felt was its “true face.” A face that was militaristic, callous with the human rights of others, brutal, but also, and this is important, wasteful. He calculated that we would be willing to waste vast resources in our over-reaction to his affront without significantly damaging his movement.

    He may have underestimated our ability to harm his movement in the long term. In the short term, Bush played right into his hands.

  25. MY SECRET IS REVEALED

  26. See? There’s a large part of his party that does not want him to fight in Afghanistan. Even on this blog there is joe on one side and MAX HATS on the other. He better hope he doesn’t end up like LBJ–Democratic Presidents are always destroyed by their left wing.

  27. My bad, MAX HATS. I was on my way to eat lunch and saw that damn story on CNN and just started laughing. I suck at links by the way.

  28. Antiwar.com routinely is filled with some of worst foreign affairs ‘analysis’ on the web that doesn’t dive straight into conspiracy theory nonsense. The site is filled with those proverbial ‘not even wrong’ things. Utley’s point 2 is the stupidest. “High oil prices weakened America until low prices did.”

    Here has been Bin Laden’s strategy since Gulf War 1:
    1) Conduct disparate attacks against US & other western military and civilian targets
    2) ?????
    3) Profit!

    It is shear luck, not design, that Osama had the Bush administration to fill in ?????

  29. The technique is simple and useful. Utley was condescending and/or extremely pedantic.

    Damn! How insecure do you have to be in your status as a grownup to resent an analogical reference to Jack and the Beanstalk? Grow up and lighten up.

    Utley is particularly smart to mention Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War. Part of the long-term remedy to these useless wars is for more Americans to read that book. FWIW, I recommend the Thomas Huynh translation.

  30. Jon Basil Utley lays out the ways in which Osama Bin Laden defeated the United States of America.

    Maybe it was not intended by him, but another part of his victory is that the US elected Il Duce, just to place the final coup d’grace on the US economy and personal freedoms.

    My hat’s off for you. It was a master stroke.

    Checkmate.

  31. “Most Democrats have been calling for more attention and troops in Afghanistan for a long time.”

    The center of the party has. The left, not so much. Already the left is talking about how they hope they will change Obama’s mind, that we can’t win there, etc etc. It will be interesting to watch.

  32. And large populaces not exactly on our side, either. Haven’t we been down this road before?

    I don’t really care if they aren’t pro-American, as long as they aren’t actively supporting Islamist terror.

    And tens of thousands who had nothing to do with his call are dead, too. Oops.

    Most, not all, at the hands of our opponents, who specifically targeted civilians in the hopes of starting a civil war or carving out their own little fiefdoms. Our opponent’s decision to commit war crimes should not count against us.

    Regardless, the question is, did OBL beat the US? The civilian casualties don’t reverse the outcome.

    As a second order issue, I’m not sure they even work against US victory where it matters (in the countries where they were incurred). The civilian casualties worked against AQ in Iraq, in the end. In Afghanistan, I’m not sure how they are playing.

  33. Look at George McGovern’s op-ed this morning, look at any number of lefty blogs. They’re already making noises.

  34. Sadly, large numbers of people would say it’s unpatriotic to say this is the case.

  35. BDB,

    MAX HATS and I are not on opposite sides. We both agree that we need to get out over the medium term, we’re both against a permanent occupation, we both think it was a good idea to invade, we both think the light footprint idea was the right strategy and the occupation/counterinsurgency was a bad idea.

    The Democratic Party is not going to be torn apart if Obama commits to stabilizing the situation with more troops over the next year; it’s only if we get into, say, 2011 and we haven’t declared or begun our exit that Obama will have a problem.

  36. As a second order issue, I’m not sure they even work against US victory where it matters (in the countries where they were incurred). The civilian casualties worked against AQ in Iraq, in the end. In Afghanistan, I’m not sure how they are playing.

    In Iraq, the ethnic strife was so brutal, senseless and extreme, it was enough to drive people to our side. In Afghanistan, I’m not sure suicide bombings kill even a fraction of civilians as do our own air raids.

  37. It is shear luck, not design, that Osama had the Bush administration to fill in ?????

    He would have profited from Gore’s reaction as well.

    I think he was looking at the effects of Israel’s response to Hamas and Hezbollah and guessing that the US response will fill his ranks and give him street cred in the Arab world.

    Claiming the US is the bad guy only goes so far. You have to make US act like the bad guy. He knew we would if attacked. But I don’t think he could have been more pleased with the particulars of Bush’s response.

    RC Dean,

    Our ability to deal with the housing bubble and other financial challenges is severely limited by our involvement in two wars. If Osama is given credit for the wars, then he gets credit, at least, for the difficulties that result from trying to deal with the financial crisis in a context that includes them.

  38. BDB,

    The center of the party has. The left, not so much. Kos has. Dean has. Kerry has. Obama has.

    Again, I take your point, but there is a long-term/short-term divide here.

    Already the left is talking about how they hope they will change Obama’s mind, that we can’t win there, etc etc. That’s the thing – I, an advocate for an Afghan surge, AGREE WITH THIS. Long-term, short-term. Tactical/Strategic.

  39. But then it became apparent that Bush intended to establish a long-term occupation, including a counter-insurgency, in not just Afghanistan, but also in Iraq, another country Osama identified as being ideal for fighting Americans.

    One can hardly argue, at this late date, that simply overthrowing either government and then leaving wouldn’t have created a power vacuum almost certain to be filled by OBL and his fellow travellers. To keep the initial “light footprint” from being a total waste of time, some kind of follow-up was necessary.

    Now that we’re there, and the situation is deteriorating, it might make sense to send in a surge of troops to avoid a military setback, but this is a tactical question. Strategically, they’re going to bleed us white if we stay over the long term, just like they did the Soviets.

    I’m assuming this is a reference to Afhganistan, not Iraq. Obama’s got a real dilemma on his hands, there. If he stays, he risks being bled white. If he leaves, the very forces that are apparently capable of bleeding us white should be more than capable of overthrowing the current government, in a note-for-note replay of Viet Nam.

    Obviously, I think its a real mistake to believe that AQ exists solely to fight the US, and if we leave it will evaporate, but that seems to be the assumption behind the belief that an Afghanistan that can’t beat them with our help, can beat them without it.

  40. Bin Laden just did what his Illuminati overlords told him to do. Which was take the blame for 9/11.

  41. The Democratic Party is not going to be torn apart if Obama commits to stabilizing the situation with more troops over the next year; it’s only if we get into, say, 2011 and we haven’t declared or begun our exit that Obama will have a problem.

    It will certainly not tear up the party in either case – the party already acquiesced to imperialism a long time ago, under Dubya. Whenever Il Duce decides to send more troops to “stabilize” whatever, the party will be there to stand firm . . . right with him, the Constitution and the reputation of the US notwithstanding.

  42. That’s the thing – I, an advocate for an Afghan surge, AGREE WITH THIS. Long-term, short-term. Tactical/Strategic.

    See, joe and I agree on this. Glad to see joe has learned from his mistaken opposition to the surge in Iraq.

  43. whatever the current state in Iraq, it isn’t a war

    It hasn’t technically been a “war” since Saddam’s military was defeated very early on. It’s been more of a police action than a war, but “war” is much more provocative.

  44. In Afghanistan, I’m not sure suicide bombings kill even a fraction of civilians as do our own air raids.

    Using air raids as a counter-insurgency tactic is awful. It is also something the military commanders in Aftghanistan turned to because the Iraq War was denying them the manpower necessary to carry out such operation with more precise, eyeball-confirming ground troops.

  45. It is shear luck, not design, that Osama had the Bush administration to fill in ?????

    He would have profited from Gore’s reaction as well.

    Possibly. Possibly not. Definitely not in the way Utley describes.

  46. And here I thought we were supposed to never chalk up to malevolence what could be equally explained by incompetence.

    bin Laden is no closer to accomplishing his stated goals now than he was on 9/10, to put it mildly. He was after the establishment of a new caliphate and the reconquest of Iberia, not straining our National Guard system and freezing up credit markets. This writer is falling into the common fallacy that because something happened, it must have been planned by someone.

  47. I should add that I think our reaction to 9/11 hurt us far more than al-Qaeda ever could; I just don’t believe that was all part of some aQ master plan.

  48. Grow up and lighten up.

    Yikes, Brian. I suggested LMNOP and I settle it using Princess Bride as a template. Honest, I’m light. Having a rough day on the Playboy beat? πŸ™‚

  49. Our ability to deal with the housing bubble and other financial challenges is severely limited by our involvement in two wars.

    Actually cutting government’s liability in the housing bubble and other financial challenges in order to afford the war would have prevented the housing bubble and other financial challenges.

    Government created the housing bubble and sub-prime mortgage failures.

  50. MAX HATS and I are not on opposite sides.

    Pretty sure we are, if you support the Afghan surge. As I see it, the only way to “win” Afghanistan is to tolerate the growing of opinium and make it clear to the people of Afghanistan with a status of forces type agreement that we have a timetable for leaving.

    If we go into Afghanistan with no concrete promise to the people that we will leave with tens of thousands more soldiers and marines on the ground – that looks like giant permanent-looking bases, it’s more scared 19 year olds on machine guns yelling at locals to get back, it’s more cousins and brothers and fathers disappearing into detainment facilities. And Afghan support, already declining, will plumet. The tribes and villages will openly take up arms against us, and we will lose.

    Iraq is not Afghanistan, period. Approaching it as such will ensure defeat. I am not a Rumsfeld fan, but the original plan for Afghanistan was genius. When you go in with 500 special forces and aircraft, the locals know you’re not going to stay around. Now, they don’t know that. The think we might plan on owning the place. We aren’t making any move to leave, and if we move in tens of thousands more, it will confirm their worst fears.

  51. If he leaves, the very forces that are apparently capable of bleeding us white should be more than capable of overthrowing the current government, in a note-for-note replay of Viet Nam.

    The Taliban needed Pakistani assistance last time. I am pretty sure they will not get it again. The war lords couldn’t handle the Taliban with Pakistani support. They probably could now. Whether the central government can put together a coalition that is stable enough to oppose the Taliban is an open questions. The NATO strategy should be focused on assisting in the creation of a stable domestic situation that allows such a coalition to form.

  52. RC,

    If the use of American air power and special forces support was enough to launch an offensive war against the Taliban and al Qaeda when they controlled the government and countryside, why would it be inadequate to win a defensive war agains those same forces? The professionals generally say that attackers need to outnumber defenders from 6:1 to 10:1.

    I’m assuming this is a reference to Afhganistan, not Iraq. I meant Afghanistan, but I guess it applies to Iraq, too. Good thing we’ve set aside the idea of staying long-term in Iraq. Now we need to do the same in Afghanistan.

    …in a note-for-note replay of Viet Nam. In Vietnam, after our war there ended, the South was faced with the national army of another country, a huge one, backed up by the military aid of a superpower. Not quite what the Taliban and al Qaeda have to threaten the Karzai government.

    Glad to see joe has learned from his mistaken opposition to the surge in Iraq. Actually, I stated before and throughout the Surge in Iraq that American forces could very likely accomplish tactical goals, but that it would be useless strategically. So it’s good to see that you’ve come to agree with me, and acknowledged that sending in a surge is useful only for tactical purposes.

  53. I don’t think we can say bin Laden won until we pull out of Israel. Not that we necessarily shouldn’t…

  54. He was after the establishment of a new caliphate and the reconquest of Iberia, not straining our National Guard system and freezing up credit markets. This writer is falling into the common fallacy that because something happened, it must have been planned by someone.

    Well, that goal was pretty absurd to begin with. His more achievable goal was to get the US out of the Arabian Peninsula, which is the Muslim Holy Land. You’re absolutely right about the rest. Nevertheless, the SOB did achieve, unintentionally, to sink the US even more into full fledged fascism, now that Il Duce has been anointed.

    I have to hand it to him – he achieved what seemed impossible: scare a people of 300Mill into becoming sheep.

  55. This article is a joke.

    Lots of people have read Sun Tzu. That doesn’t make them military geniuses.

    Can you honestly tell me that OBL would not do things differently if given a chance?

    AQ’s safehaven of Afghanistan has been lost. His organization has been almost destroyed. His followers live in caves. And the US occupies two Muslim countries and replaced the leadership with secular-leaning governements.

    The terrible price of all this? A rise in US unemployment rates a few precentage points, overzealous TYSA screenings, and some other government BS not related to the WOT at all.

    Yes, clearly a resounding victory by OBL.

  56. MAX HATS,

    I agree with everything you wrote, beyond the sort-term question of the surge. Poppy cultivation, clearly stating our intent to leave, a SOFA that includes our stated commitment to getting out soon, not taking actions that look like, or are, an effort to establish a permanent presence, the rightness of the light-footprint plan, the grudging admission of respect for Rumsfeld, all of it.

    I even agree that a troop increase has the danger of making it appear that we are working to establish a permanent presence, and consider that threat to be a serious danger. If we do go in with a surge, we’d have to do so as part of a stated strategy of leaving, including a SOFA with a timeline.

  57. Yikes, Brian. I suggested LMNOP and I settle it using Princess Bride as a template. Honest, I’m light. Having a rough day on the Playboy beat? πŸ™‚

    Thanks for asking. As always, Playboy and A Course in Miracles are the two things in life that make everything else bearable.

    I guess I got cranky about people’s complaints about Jack and the Beanstalk because it reminded me of the foolish pride of my fellow students in junior high school. I thought those fools protested too much in their zeal to put away childish things. Why the big rush to assume more and more pissant responsibilities? Then again, I probably grasped for reasons to feel superior to those assholes as a matter of psychic survival.

  58. AQ’s safehaven of Afghanistan has been lost.

    Sort of. We still haven’t, you know, caught him.

    His organization has been almost destroyed.

    There wasn’t much there to begin with. Besides, I imagine they would view self-destruction as a small price to pay for striking a powerful blow.

    His followers live in caves.

    So, uh…no change.

    And the US occupies two Muslim countries and replaced the leadership with secular-leaning governments.

    And how long, pray-tell, do you think those governments will survive? BTW, calling either government “secular-leaning” is kind of a bad joke.

    The terrible price of all this? A rise in US unemployment rates a few precentage points, overzealous TYSA screenings, and some other government BS not related to the WOT at all.

    Dead bodies matter not, eh? Thousands of dead Americans, tens of thousands of dead Afghans, probably tens to hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis? Watch the news much?

    Strengthened Iran’s position in the region. Weakened Israel’s.

    Yeah, wow, that was sure worth it.

  59. “And how long, pray-tell, do you think those governments will survive? BTW, calling either government “secular-leaning” is kind of a bad joke.

    Yeah. The ruling party in Iraq is the Islamic Dawa Party. The equivalent in the US would be called “The Christian Evangelical Party”.

  60. Call me when the cost of fighting terrorism gets anywhere near the cost of fighting drugs.

  61. Al Qaeda has a larger presence in Iraq today than they did in 2003.

    Iraq has a less-secular government today than they did in 2002.

  62. Osama’s followers don’t live in caves. They live in villages and towns.

    He filmed some of his videos in caves, because the Koran says that Mohammed received the word of God in a cave, so shooting his propaganda there was a good way to make him and his movement look more pious.

  63. “He filmed some of his videos in caves, because the Koran says that Mohammed received the word of God in a cave, so shooting his propaganda there was a good way to make him and his movement look more pious.”

    Thank you. It’s amazing how many people forget we found every single AQ hot shot (ex., KSM) not in caves but in urban areas.

  64. El,

    You missed the point of my post.

    Whether or not we have acheived all our objectives, OBL has achieved none. He would be in a much better position if he had left us well alone.

    Maybe we are fucking up royal. But it has nothing to do with any plans by OBL.

  65. Osama’s followers don’t live in caves. They live in villages and towns.

    It’s an expression. Would hovels be more to your liking?

  66. Pain,

    His followers living in Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan in exactly the same conditions they were in August 2001.

    You’re telling me that Pakistan and Afghanistan have lousy housing stock? Um..so?

  67. Pain–

    KSM wasn’t in a hovel. He was in an apartment in an urban area.

  68. Osama has won because he succeeded in his plan to get the US to attack him, the US has spent a lot of money in the process, and “alienated” people who never really cared for it in the first place?

    Well, I guess if you set the bar really, really low than victory is almost always assured.

    And, I’d second the point that by historical standards, the spending on Afghanistan and Iraq is relatively low, and that you’d be hard pressed to find a serious economist who says that our current economic woes are more than tangentially related thereto.

  69. OBL is probably living in an apartment in Pakistan with air conditioning. This whole cave bullshit is such amazing propaganda. He has gotten the entire world to believe it.

  70. I made the same mistake as R C over at Urkobold. I correctly posted a story about a new show called Osama’s Heroes and incorrectly posted a related poll that called the show Obama’s Heroes. Honestly, given our lack of love for bin Laden, can’t Obama get a new name? He thinks he’s Lincoln already, so how about Barry Lincoln? Sounds like a porn star name, too. Great stuff.

    All this talk is interesting, but if you ask me, al Qaeda, other than liking our help with recruitment, is not at all happy that we toppled two Muslim nations and haven’t backed the hell off yet. As Iraq stabilizes, we’ll project more force in Afghanistan. No, they aren’t happy. Nor am I, but my reasons are very different than theirs.

  71. Whether or not we have acheived all our objectives, OBL has achieved none. He would be in a much better position if he had left us well alone.

    Really? I imagine the damage that was done to the US’ relationship to its closest allies has taken a severe and lasting blow. Such that it will be nearly impossible for the US to ask our allies to act militarily on just about anything short of an actual existential threat.

    That’s not an OBL win? Really?

  72. Regardless, the question is, did OBL beat the US? The civilian casualties don’t reverse the outcome.

    Did anyone but the most depraved among us ever think OBL would “beat the US”?

    Al Qaida is a threat, but it’s nothing compared to American cowardess.

  73. His followers living in Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan in exactly the same conditions they were in August 2001.

    Far from it. They were in a safe haven under the Taliban. They are currently moving from town to town avoiding US patrols while trying to maintain a tenuous grip on said towns.

    You make the mistake a lot people make in assuming that if a town is not friendly to Coalition forces it is friendly to the Taliban/AQ crew. Most of the towns don’t want them there either. This makes it very difficult for insurgent forces to get a positive grip on anything.

  74. Osama hasn’t won. We just haven’t made as much progress as we might have, and paid a higher price than we needed to.

  75. Iraq has a less-secular government today than they did in 2002.

    True, too bad they didn’t get an even more secular ruler than Saddam Hussein, say someone like Mao or Stalin.

  76. Really? I imagine the damage that was done to the US’ relationship to its closest allies has taken a severe and lasting blow. Such that it will be nearly impossible for the US to ask our allies to act militarily on just about anything short of an actual existential threat.

    That’s not an OBL win? Really?

    Was that part of his “Master Plan?” Not in the least. Whatever damage in international relations by the Bush Administration are purely on Bush. OBL didn’t orchestrate that.

  77. Please. Jon Basil Utley has no more clue about whether Bin Laden is even still alive than I do, so the whole premise is absurd.

    If anything, it looks more and more like Ayman Al-Zawahiri is the guy who’s running the show now. We just barely missed killing him once already, and it’s only a matter of time before we succeed.

  78. Iraq has a less-secular government today than they did in 2002.

    Well, yeah, but the fact that’s it’s an elected government instead of a blood-thirsty tyranny ought to trump the “less secular” complaint.

  79. OBL is probably living in an apartment in Pakistan with air conditioning.

    OBL is an ascetic. He’s probably living simply, in a farm compound owned by one of his wealthier supporters, in a rural area.

    And getting top-notich medical care and equipment brought to him by his network. Which isn’t scary at all, because Osama bin Laden having access to a network that can provide top-notch lab equipment and people with advanced educations is no big deal.

    Pain,

    Far from it. They were in a safe haven under the Taliban. I agree that their political and military position in Afghanistan has been severly eroded. They used to more or less run the joint, and now they don’t. Aboslutely right. I’m NOT making the argument you attribute to me.

    But they aren’t living hand to mouth, they aren’t on the run, the way “living in caves” suggests. The run-of-the-mill Talib or “Afghan Arab” is living pretty much the same as his 2002 counterpart.

  80. This writer is falling into the common fallacy that because something happened, it must have been planned by someone

    Exactly. OBL is a nutjob. He didn’t plan jack shit other than “damage symbols of Great Satan capitalism, kill some people, scare a lot of people, get big points from Allah”.

    That the towers came down and we got embroiled in a bunch of wars is entirely our fault. Seeing as he wouldn’t have even predicted the fall of the towers, are we supposed to expect he predicted the rest?

  81. True, too bad they didn’t get an even more secular ruler than Saddam Hussein, say someone like Mao or Stalin.

    So, are you incapable of following the discussion, or just afraid to do so?

  82. Whatever damage in international relations by the Bush Administration are purely on Bush. OBL didn’t orchestrate that.

    So, just for the record, you’re saying that the Madrid bombing, to take one example, wasn’t an effort to split our allies off from us?

    I used to read a lot of people claiming it was.

  83. Well, yeah, but the fact that’s it’s an elected government instead of a blood-thirsty tyranny ought to trump the “less secular” complaint.

    A.

    No, not A.

    You damn Saddam-lover!

    Boooooooooooorrrrrrrriiiiiiinnnnnnngggggggggg.

  84. That the towers came down and we got embroiled in a bunch of wars is entirely our fault.

    Oops, the towers coming down was not our fault. Getting embroiled in wars was. We all know that the towers came down from controlled demolition. Captain Freedom said so.

  85. OBL is a nutjob. He didn’t plan jack shit other than “damage symbols of Great Satan capitalism, kill some people, scare a lot of people, get big points from Allah”.

    Doesn’t the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massood, the leader of the Northern Alliance, just before 9/11 suggest that he did, in fact, expect us to invade Afghanistan?

  86. Epi —

    I find it wiser to impute intelligence upon one’s enemies rather than folly, unless you know them very, very well.

    At worst you over-plan a little, whereas with the other you go in dick waving in the wind, and guess where you get kicked more than half the time?

  87. I find it wiser to impute intelligence upon one’s enemies rather than folly, unless you know them very, very well.

    I find it wiser to assign appropriate levels of capability to them as warranted. Assuming someone is intelligent when they are a nutjob completely changes your strategy–for the worse.

    Overestimating an enemy’s intelligence is almost as bad as underestimating. I’ve seen very good chess players confounded by a very bad player because they assumed their simple strategy was a trick.

  88. Wow, Joe, so you really do think an elected government in Iraq is a step backward for them because it’s “less secular” than the previous dictatorship? Wow. I’m no fan of Islam, but I guess I’m a bit more into that whole democracy/will of the people thing than you are.

  89. Shooting guys in the dick is not cool, Butters.

  90. Doesn’t the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massood, the leader of the Northern Alliance, just before 9/11 suggest that he did, in fact, expect us to invade Afghanistan?

    Yes he did. That was part of OBL’s plan. To get us into a Muslim country where we would slowly be ground up like the Soviets did in Afghanistan. Then use that to rally support for further spread of Fundamenalist states.

    Looking at current events that strategy failed spectacularly. The Taliban was routed in a few months. Much of it by native Afghans. The Taliban/AQ remnants were forced into the mountains and now into Pakistan. The only thing saving them is the Pakistan border and the inability of the Pakistani government to exert effective control of the region.

    OBL either significantly underestimated our abilities as compared to the Soviets, or significantly overestimated his and his allies ability to carry the fight. Again not a military genius.

  91. Utley is particularly smart to mention Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War. Part of the long-term remedy to these useless wars is for more Americans to read that book.

    Part of the long-term remedy to these useless wars if for more Americans to read any book.

  92. I agree with joe that we’ve responded with some effectiveness, just not with as much effectiveness or as efficiently as we could have. We all tend to grossly over-inflate the importance and scope of the al Qaeda threat, in my mind, not to mention that many of us have a tendency to make the organization much more wise and effective than it’s been shown to be. We stepped in an ant bed by meddling in the Middle East, and it’s not much surprise that we’ve been bitten.

    As to Elemenope’s point, I don’t agree. Europe tends to get annoyed with us, then like us, then get annoyed with us. It’s a cycle. A lot of that comes from their discomfort in relying on us to police their interests. Like the Middle East. Bizarre religious issues aside, that’s the only strategic reason for us to mess about in a region that supplies us with less than a fifth of our imported oil. At the core, despite Bush’s ineptitude in many aspects of foreign relations, I don’t think our alliances have been damaged at all. If we had only occupied Afghanistan, the man in the street in (some parts of) Europe would still talk about American hegemony, etc. We’re their bogeyman.

  93. I think in many ways that Osama is a bit of a cipher; you can read into his actions, statements, etc. about anything you want to.

  94. So, are you incapable of following the discussion, or just afraid to do so?

    joe, it is remarkable how often people are too dumb to understand what you really mean. πŸ˜‰

  95. Seward,

    Just like our similarly named president! At last, a basis for peace.

  96. PapayaSF,

    As sorry as I am that you can’t follow the discussion, I really don’t feel like catching you up.

    If you wish to keep telling yourself that my correction of another commenter’s inaccurate statement is an endorsement of the Saddam regime, knock yourself out. There are people on the thread who can actually feed themselves, who I think are better uses of my time.

    Have a good one.

  97. Pro Libertate,

    If Osama realized anything he realized that the broad consensus amongst both Democrats and Republicans is that is basically our duty to throw our weight around and to do it often. If he was smart he would have understood this. That insight creates only a very general and broad prediction system though.

  98. Pro Libertate,

    In other words, a post-9/11 Democratic President would have of course invaded Afghanistan and then would have likely followed that up with some other type of military intervention in the region.

  99. Pain,

    Looking at current events that strategy failed spectacularly. The Taliban was routed in a few months. Much of it by native Afghans. The Taliban/AQ remnants were forced into the mountains and now into Pakistan. The only thing saving them is the Pakistan border and the inability of the Pakistani government to exert effective control of the region.

    This was true as of, say, January 2003. Since then, al Qaeda and the Taliban have been able to reconstitute themselves to the point that they are in control of a significant part of the Afghan countryside, and according to the CIA and State Department, are now just as capable of mounting international terrorist attacks as they were on September 11.

    In the mean time, we have now spent more than 7 years in Afghanistan, and causualties keep rising.

    You are right about OBL not being much of a military genius – he didn’t think we’d be able to drive them from power and all-but-clear the country, the way we did in 2002. Had it not been for George Bush and the Really Big Idea That Couldn’t Possibly Go Wrong, he and his organization might have been destryed entirely shortly thereafter.

  100. In other words, a post-9/11 Democratic President would have of course invaded Afghanistan Oh, certainly. What we saw in 2001-2002 in Afghanistan, or something very, very close to it, would have happened under any president

    …and then would have likely followed that up with some other type of military intervention in the region That’s a very broad statement. Our naval operations off of the Horn of Africa are “military intervention in the region.” Operation Desert Fox was “military intervention in the region.”

    But I find it extremely unlikely that we would have mounted and invasion and occupation of an uninvolved country like Iraq. Remember, as we’ve been learning, Bush and Rumsfeld (who signed the PNAC letter in 1998) intended to take over Iraq and install a government from the beginning of the term. That was a cause that a certain faction of the country believed in, and that faction took over our foreign and military policy.

    I think that not even an lot of Republicans would have put together an Operation Iraqi Freedom.

  101. joe, it is remarkable how often people are too dumb to understand what you really mean. πŸ˜‰

    That supporters of the Iraq War interpret, or pretend to interpret, any statement that undermines an argugment they make as a statement of support for Saddam Hussein doesn’t seem the slightest bit remarkable to me.

  102. The claim isn’t that OBL predicted the specifics of our reaction. The claim is that he predicted the broad nature of our reaction and that he did a fairly good job of it to our detriment. It is more controversial whether or not our reaction provides him with long-term benefits or not.

    [/repeating Seward’s points in different words]

  103. I’m not sure that it is the case that Iraq really prevented the Afghanistan mission from succeeding. After all, the vast majority of the forces in Iraq are old-style armored divisions (1 CD, 1 AD, 3d and 4th ID) and the divisions that rotate in and out of Afghanistan are pretty much the 82d Airborne, 101st AASLT and the 10th Mountain.

    I suppose if you wanted to make an argument that the vast amount of money and resources allocated to Iraq prevented transitioning some of the old divisions to mountain-warfare-capable divisions, you could do so, but part of me thinks that griping about Iraq is a convenient way for The People with Stars on Their Shoulders to get more men and resources, as any other bureaucratic institution is wont to do.

    I’m just not sure that the narrative of “But-for the distraction in Iraq, we would be cruising to a resounding success in Afghanistan” is true; it’s too neat and it doesn’t reflect on the Soviet experience.

  104. joe,

    Unlikely. The history of fighting terrorist groups over the twentieth century shows us that such affairs are multi-decade deals. Now what the Bush administration went about doing didn’t help anything, but it was fairly predictable that the “bad elements” in Afghanistan would have reared their heads again, and that if they had to they would seek refuge outside of Afghanistan and continue the fight from there.

  105. I’m pretty sure bin Laden expected us to cut and run when we took a blow at home. It fits his view of us as decadent and weak. We not only didn’t do that, we dramatically increased our involvement in Middle Eastern affairs. We invaded two countries and overthrew their governments, we scared at least a couple of other Middle Eastern nations into relative submission, and we’ve increased our influence in Pakistan and likely in Saudi Arabia (despite some window-dressing otherwise). He cannot be remotely pleased by this state of affairs. Some grumbling among us and our allies and some expansion of al Qaeda’s recruitment is hardly worth that price.

    All that said, we could’ve handled this all much more adroitly. Other than initially knocking off the Taliban, there hasn’t been much that we’ve handled very well. Still, if we’re using a hammer where a scalpel would make more sense, we’re still demonstrating a power (and a willingness to use it) that the bin Ladens of the world can’t hope to contend with. Which is likely why we haven’t been hit on our soil since then–al Qaeda and other groups now likely fear that we’ll just take over the entire region if we get hit hard again. And they’re probably right. If they perceive that the Obama election means we’ve wimped out, they may try again, but the Democrats are just as war-loving as the GOP when they feel like it.

    If you ask me, we should get out of this business altogether for a variety of reasons. I don’t see radical Islam as a dire threat to our interests long term, but if we get too aggressive, we risk becoming something other than a republic.

  106. TAO,

    Well, more to the point, I can’t think of a significant terrorist organization that was defeated in just a few years. It seems to be a generational affair because of the ideological commitment of the generation you are fighting and the generation they are raising up. AQ was always going to take 20-40 years to combat.

  107. TAO,

    In my non-expert opinion, it wasn’t the total troops numbers per se that were missing from Afghanistan, but special forces units in particular that were training for or sneaking around in Iraq when they could have been, say, organizing things and bolstering the force at Tora Bora.

    You’re probably right that putting another division or three into Afghanistan to conduct countet-insurgency operations throughout the country wouldn’t have done much good.

  108. joe,

    But I find it extremely unlikely that we would have mounted and invasion and occupation of an uninvolved country like Iraq.

    I don’t. I think there are equal amounts of stupidity in both major parties.

  109. Fair enough, Seward.

    “he and his organization might have been destroyed entirely” isn’t really what I meant to say.

    I was trying to make a point about al Qaeda as a military force, operating freely in a territory they and their allies controlled, which also served to make them a more effective international terror group. We might have put an end to that. Certainly, we’d still have the Al Qaeda Underground to worry about. So to speak.

  110. joe – possibly, but, needless to say, SOCOM keeps their shit pretty tightly under wraps, so I have no idea what numbers were where and when. Of course, you always get an occasional dude who likes to say he was in Iraq in February 2003 (I’ve heard that about four times from different sources), but I usually just chalk that up to the same “fact” that everyone I meet in the Navy was a SEAL.

  111. joe,

    And of course I do recall what was coming out of the Clinton administration in 1998 re: the dangers of Iraq, etc. The language was in many ways similar to what the Bush administration was spouting off from 9/11 2001 until the invasion.

  112. I think there are equal amounts of stupidity in both major parties.

    Sure, but their stupidity takes distinctly different forms. πŸ˜‰

    Rather than invading Iraq, President Hillary would have ordered the Navy to set up a series of Womyn’s Health Clinics throughout the Muslim world.

    Remember, the Democrats were all aboard for Afghanistan. They were all aboard for the Phillipines, and the Horn of Africa – but they voted against the Iraqi AUMF by 58%-42% in Congress. In 2002. Just before the elections. While the Republicans were in the throes of their “everyone but us is an unmaly traitor” bender.

  113. joe,

    And of course, the American populace was really itching to kick some ass in 2002 and 2003. People tend to forget that going to war was darn popular when it came about in 2003.

  114. Anyway, that isn’t what happened; it is all speculation; etc.

    More importantly, at least for libertarians, is to ween us off this notion that our duty is to throw our weight around.

  115. Seward,

    The Clintons certainly did consider Iraq to be a priority, and probably would have use the post 9/11 situation to do something about it.

    But that something is much more likely to have been another Operation Desert Fox, or a revitalization of the sanctions regime, or a no-drive zone in the Shiite area, or ramming a Blix Team back down Saddam throat.

    The PNAC “We’re gonna overthrow Saddam, install Chalabi, and then Arab Spring” idea was a very specific decision, made by people who intended to take over Iraq from the beginning. Even those who wanted to step on Saddam could have gone in many other directions.

  116. You know, maybe we can get that “humble” foreign policy that Bush discussed in 2000.

  117. And of course, the American populace was really itching to kick some ass in 2002 and 2003.

    We were kicking ass in 2002 and 2003. We were kicking the Taliban’s ass. We helped kick the Muslim rebels’ ass in the Phillipines.

    Even by an ass-kicking hawk’s standard, there were a lot of other directions we could have gone in besides going all Rudyard Kipling in Dar al Islam.

  118. joe,

    Well, even if those were the actions that a possible Gore administration had undertaken I would have opposed them. As much as I find the regime of Sadaam Hussein despicable, if I were President I would ended our meddling there.

  119. “””People tend to forget that going to war was darn popular when it came about in 2003.””””

    A war that takes a few weeks and cost less than $200 Billion will be popular.

    Any war where the citizney feels misled about the time, cost, and necessity will always be unpopular. It doesn’t matter if it was intentional or incompetence.

  120. TrickyVic,

    Do you really think the citizenry was misled? Or was it something related to your first point? After all, supporting the war initially didn’t cost much to the average war supporter, there was little experience with a long war (Viet Nam happened a long time ago, etc.), etc. If there was a lot of wishful thinking in the Bush administration, then there was probably equal amounts of such amongst the general population.

  121. Yeah, let’s not pretend that with Bush gone, all guilt is washed away. Too many of us were all grins and giggles about both wars. Most of the warnings I heard about were about us not being militarily up to the task, which, of course, wasn’t the real problem.

    America! I’m looking at you. It’s all well and good to talk about improving our international reputation, but our allies aren’t complete doofuses. They know we’d love to blame it all on Bush, but they also know that we’re loco when stuff happens to us.

  122. joe, Seward, joe, Seward, joe, Seward, joe, Seward, joe, Seward, joe, Seward, joe, Seward, joe, Seward, joe, Seward, joe, Seward, joesewardjoesewardjoesewardjoesewardjoesewardjoesewardjoesewardjoesewardjoeseward…

    (Head explodes)

  123. I suspect that the Iraq war in 2003 was “popular” in about the same way as the TARP clusterfuck is “popular”.

    I remember an awful lot of protests and complaining about the idea, even from people who supported going into Afghanistan. They were just downplayed until all one heard were pro-war pronouncements.

    Just like the bailout.

  124. Is it jsut me or do other people here find it odd that OBL is spoken of as if he is definitely alive and definitely not just a tool of the CIA?

    The sketchy, obviously phony OBL videos….the Bhutto statements saying he was dead…the CIA “visiting” him in a hospital etc…Do some people here really 100% believe everything CNN, W and Obama tell them is a “fact” about OBL?

  125. According to the ex-spooks at the New America Foundation, and hundreds of other security experts, at peak Al Quaeda numbered just 800 core terrorists. Now its down to 120 at most. That 800 Wahabis got the almighty US shaking in its boots and squandering $trillions on phoney security agendas, and trashing our civil rights,should tell us somthing about the American elites, that they are stupid and evil, to say the least.

  126. It seems Osama played it right from the beginning..see what were his objectives below

    http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/11/01/binladen.tape/

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