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.