An article in the Telegraph makes a startling claim:
Bin Laden is probably as far away from achieving his strategic aims as he was before September 11. However, America, Britain and all of bin Laden's countless other enemies seem no closer to hunting him down, still less to crushing al-Qa'eda.Having taken a few deep, shuddering breaths, I’m almost prepared to tackle the assertion that bin Laden is no closer to achieving his goals than he was before 9/11.
The probable truth is that what President George W Bush called the "war on terror" has reached a stalemate. Neither side is close to achieving their goals.
Putting aside the fact that 9/11 was, as far as we know, a “strategic aim” of al-Qaeda, let’s consider what 9/11 accomplished. It crippled this country emotionally, putting families, friends, co-workers and complete strangers at each other’s throats. It caused us to throw our laws, and whatever residual shreds of decency adhered to them, out the window, and inaugurated a political order so far beyond the bounds of what normally passes for democracy that even an authoritarian hardliner like John Ashcroft couldn’t stomach it.
The wars we’ve launched have rallied the Islamic world against us, appalled what few friends we had, and made terrorism an attractive career option for every brutalized, alienated Muslim from here to Terengganu. There’s also the small matter of deposing a secular regime in Iraq. You’d have to be fairly dim to believe that this wasn’t welcomed by radical fundamentalists (especially given how often we hear our own radical fundamentalists talk about the importance of deposing secularists).
The goal of terrorism is to destabilize society by provoking overreaction, paranoia, social friction, and the squandering of resources. That’s what 9/11 was intended to do, and that’s what it did. Lest there be any doubt on the point, here’s OBL himself:
All that we have to do is to send two Mujahedin to the farthest point East to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qa'ida in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human economic and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note….The fact that we’re stuck in an ever-escalating war of attrition for the foreseeable future doesn’t exactly hurt al-Qaeda's cause, either. All in all, I’d say they're doing a fine job of achieving their "strategic aims."
Not as fine a job as BushCo, though. For them, 9/11 has been an unanswerable excuse for everything from demonizing political opponents; to relaxing environmental laws; to “legalizing” torture, indefinite detention, and murder. It’s been used to hide criminal behavior, silence critics, gut laws, and make countless end-runs around the judicial system. It’s accelerated the transfer of the country’s wealth from the struggling poor to the redundantly rich, and enabled the building of the biggest and most heavily militarized US embassy on earth.
It’s allowed a gaggle of tenth-rate, stolidly anti-intellectual bumpkins to palm themselves off as the defenders of “civilization,” even as they continued an attack on rights, rationality, fairness, cosmopolitanism, and personal liberty that agrees in its broad outlines with the worst of radical Islam’s anti-modern rhetoric. It’s enabled these incomprehensible vermin to swarm throughout every level of government, and fulfill their instinctive, pointless mission of running it into the ground.
And of course, it bathed Bush’s rubbery brow in a fleeting blaze of holy light, before he fell back into his natural metier of blustering, uncomprehending self-destructiveness. If there’s anything Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush can agree on, it’s that 9/11 is the best thing that ever happened to them.
The problem with the “War on Terror” isn’t that it’s reached a stalemate. The problem is that both sides are against us, and both sides are winning.
(Photo at top: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), posing with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.)