October 18, 2001
Tunnel down to bin Laden’s lair and imagine the
deliberations of the killer’s council.
Some have called him a madman, but his crimes, though cruel, are
not without calculation. Others
accept the nonsensical notion that like Seuss’ Grinch, “the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart
was two sizes too small.” Yet hatred of goodness is a propellant too
Even before he submits
to CNN’s six-question pop quiz, this much we know about bin Laden:
He is working a strategy, and we will not thwart it until we
understand it. The papers
brim with “Why Do They Hate Us?” scenarios, but while pundits play tea
leaves, bin Laden has answered the question himself. "Our
Islamic nation has been tasting…for more than 80 years…humiliation and
disgrace, its sons killed and their blood spilled, its sanctities
desecrated,” he said in his latest home video.
swear to God that America will not live in peace before peace reigns in
Palestine and before all the army of infidels depart the land of
Reject or accept the
validity of his bill of wrongs, a man’s motive is his to own.
September 11 was no blind swing of a lunatic’s fist;
rather, it was the deliberate work of a driven tactician.
As for his method, Bin Laden armed his ranks with terror, the only
weapon available to the weak, and aimed his blow, in his own words, at
America’s “vital organs.” He waited too long and planned too
carefully to expect that we would answer by recalling all troops from the
Middle East and redirecting Israeli aid to Iraq’s sanction-starved
children. As he played bunker
hopscotch, bin Laden anticipated military retaliation, knew that our
strength would be superior to his, and recognized that he would spend his
numbered days as a fugitive. Why
then light the September 11 fuse? Because
bin Laden knows his enemy.
He took the measure of
our might and knew he couldn’t do battle by conventional means.
Thus in a twist of progress serving regression that would do Hegel
proud, he sought to eventually drive us out by immediately dragging us in.
And what better place to wear down an empire than the desert he
knows well as his own name? To
fight there, America needed regional allies and coalitions don’t come
When Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld visited Tashkent, Uzbekistan, he carried a letter from
President Bush promising a “qualitatively new relationship” in return
for permission to station U.S. forces.
Implied are both economic payoffs and security guarantees against
any Russian ambition to reclaim former territory.
In Pakistan, a nation scarcely in America’s good graces since its
nuclear tests in 1998 and the military coup that brought Gen. Pervez
Musharraf to power two years ago, the U.S. has dropped economic sanctions
and rescheduled more than $375 million in loans.
The Palestinians have gained President Bush’s spoken support of
statehood, and the Afghan people just received a $320 million foreign aid
injection – in addition to the $170 million we
already send each year – along with a pledge to rebuild and restore the
government. Finally in the thorniest turn of all, the U.S. may support the
ground troops of the Northern Alliance tied to Indians contesting Kashmir
and Iranian Shiites who despise the Sunni Taliban.
American proponents of
wider war have sought to draw this web across the Middle East, beginning
in Iraq and marching down their hit list of “rogue nations” to Libya,
Sudan, Syria, and Iran. It’s hard to
believe bin Laden would be disappointed.
If he knew – and he
did – that September 11 would draw a counterstrike, what then was his
ultimate goal and what are we doing to deny it?
Said Sun Tzu, “Defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to
None should take pleasure in wandering the recesses of a wicked mind, but until we understand why bin Laden acted as he did, we play defense while he drives this war. Our preservation requires his elimination, but after that, we must pause. Otherwise, bin Laden wins, even in death, the reward he sought all his life – America sucked into the vortex of ancient tension only to straggle out weakened and resolved never to return.
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