For a man who spent years living in caves, 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. He knew that his own strength was mainly
in his appeal to the minds of men, particularly to the lost dignity of Muslims
trampled under the heel of their own dictators, Israel's occupation of the
West Bank and Gaza, and America's military. Getting rid of the "far" enemy
was the way to take on the "near" ones.
Instigating America to destroy Iraq was a triumph of genius. He must have
known about the neoconservative
cabal in Washington that was itching to start wars and destroy Iraq. In
bin Laden's wildest dreams he then imagined that he could get an enraged America
to destroy his enemies while, at the same time, isolating itself from allies
and becoming seriously weakened. His prime Arab enemy, secular nationalist
socialism, was embodied by the Ba'athist rulers in Iraq. Once destroyed, Muslim
resistance could be channeled to religious fundamentalism as the only remaining
force honest and profound enough to challenge Arab dictators and American soldiers
successfully. In that sense he was allied with Israel, again an intelligent
strategy of harnessing his enemies' strength, which, for different reasons,
feared Iraq as the most modern, secular nation among the Arabs far more than
it feared Muslim fundamentalists. Indeed, in Palestine, Israel built up Islamist
Hamas at first as a counterforce to the secular PLO. Successful terrorists
come from the well educated, not from fundamentalist fanatics.
Next was his hope that he might get America to destroy his Shi'ite enemy, Iran.
He almost succeeded in this too. His prime aim, though, was to get America bogged
down in endless, resource-sapping wars on the Asian landmass and disrupt oil
flows that benefited his enemies.
Bin Laden understood how America's religious fundamentalists, who had inordinate
power in Washington, could be encouraged to sustain religious wars. He "knew"
them precisely because he understood his own Muslim fundamentalists, as indeed
also the Israeli ones. All could work together in his scheming mind to wreck
the global economy, which so benefited American power. In 2002 at a party in
my home, I said to Peru's brilliant economist Hernando de Soto that, of course,
bin Laden's objective was to drive America out of the Middle East. He replied
to me, "Not just that, out of the whole Third World!"
The actual crash in America came about because of the wars, in several ways:
First, 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. A government at war seeks political support. Spending billions
for an unpopular war and its waste makes it far more difficult to deny billions
for more welfare. That's why America is called a warfare-welfare state. Welfare
began in Germany in the 19th century when Bismarck sought popular support for
his military ventures. It was the trade-off.
Second, the destruction of Iraq, and Bush's constant threats to start
bombing Iran, which could have closed down the Strait of Hormuz, brought about
sky-high oil prices, which then busted world prosperity. Still, bin Laden might
not have imagined that hedge funds would feed the speculation, and that Bush
would not release oil from the petroleum reserve, which could have broken the
price, because he wanted to keep it in reserve for war against Iran. Then the
subsequent collapse of oil prices dried up a major source of foreign buyers
for U.S. government bonds, which finance America's wars and reckless debts.
Third, all of Washington's attention was absorbed by the wars, leaving
little time or energy for dull domestic issues such as debating reforms to the
financial markets. Anyone who questioned the wars' costs was dismissed as unpatriotic.
Lies are part of waging war, and losing discredits and exposes the leaders'
lies. From discredited American leaders, it was a short step to discredited
American financial markets.
Fourth was the toxic alliance of neoconservatives and religious fundamentalists.
The neocons were academic Washington policy wonks who dreamed of ruling the
world. The "fundies" provided electoral support, because they viewed America
as doing God's work among the foreign heathens. Their extremists indeed wanted
chaos in the Middle East to
"hurry up" God's plans for Armageddon. Instead they served bin Laden's goals.
Fifth, 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.
All of this was indeed foreseen by the wars' many critics, but they could not
break through in the major media against the powers and lies
of the Bush administration.
Editor John Feffer forecast
the wars' consequences precisely in 2002:
"The successful realization of bin Laden's secret strategy will happen not
with a bang but with a whimper. Having failed to use the unipolar moment for
the world's advantage, the United States runs the risk of following the examples
of Russia and England and Turkey, all faded empires whose ambitions overreached
themselves. In the worst-case scenario, the U.S. will become the sick man of
North America, a victim of military hypertrophy, extremes of wealth and poverty,
decay of civil infrastructure, and loss of competitive economic advantage."
At least Americans are told that Washington "succeeded" in preventing any more
attacks on the homeland. Maybe, but the more likely reason there have been no
further attacks was explained in a letter
to the editor of Foreign Policy magazine [.pdf] by researcher Laura
"But one could venture that Osama bin Laden has no reason now to expose
himself and expend massive resources when he accomplished exactly what he wanted:
billions of dollars of expenditures in launching wars, the total neglect of
infrastructure, the loss of thousands of tourists who are wary of staying in
line for hours dealing with airport. Decay and bankruptcy is what he sought,
and fear is what he wanted to instill. Can anyone doubt that he succeeded?"