Sunday, September 17, 2006

Why We Haven't Been Attacked in Five Years

One of the pro/con (non)debates during the mid-term elections is why we haven't been attacked since 9/11.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Face the Nation a few weeks ago stressed this point repeatedly in his verbal sparring with Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean.

McConnell stressed the Bush notion that we will only be safe at home (and have been) because we are fighting the terrorists over there. Dean, mouthing the Democratic Party Line, said that we are not safer because Iraq has created more terrorists and distracted the US from fighting al-Qaeda who are reconstituting themselves in Western Pakistan.

Neither side of course admitting any possible relevance to the other: Republicans that our effots have created more insurgents/terrorists, Democrats that maybe the adminstration is to be comended for us not being attacked since 9/11.

However I call this a non-debate because it is, in typical American style, totally devoted to an American-only assumption of causality/power/influence in the world.

There is a much easier explanation for why we have not been attacked since 9/11. And that reason is Osama bin Laden's lack of tactical foresight.

bin Laden is obsessed with the notion of the big-hit attacks (USS Cole, Embassies, Twin Towers, Pentagon, Madrid Train, London Tubes). Each attack has to be bigger and more gruesome than the former, or the populace becomes numb to the terror to be inflicted.

The whole point of terrorism is to inflict terror in the populace, thereby causing them to make irrational decisions, spendfully waste. Like our airport mania over bottled water.

Also bin Laden has a desire to be invovled in the planning and micro-managing of attacks. He wants to get acquaintances/personal contacts in attacks--often not intelligent characters according to 9/11 Mastermind, former AQ #3 Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Osama's desire to be connected to every operation is what caused the recent British airlines attack to be thwarted.

Al-Qaeda while not by any menas non-operational or non-threatening is a relic of the 1980s and 90s and is being swept away by globalization and the evolution of jihadism.

If bin Laden really desired to cause panic in the streets, it is completely obvious how he could do so. I'm not going to mention how, but needless to say the targets would not be so-called high profile ones. With American media insanity, emotional narcissism, and egotistical non-historical mindset, AQ (or an affiliated group) could easily cause chaos and financial loss far larger than 9/11 with far less effort.

And no stupid pointless Democratic or Republican mudslinging would see it coming. That the American Muslim population, due largely to its higher education/wealthier general cross-section and general US toleration of religious difference/opportunity, has not by and large bought into the AQ vision. There have been some. Why the individuals in Ohio who were planning on going to fight US troops in Iraq needed to go overseas, why AQ can't click these people in to due local attacks here is kinda beyond me really.

What Bin Laden could never in a million years I think have imagined is that we would have given him the invasion of Iraq. Jihadism of the sort depicted by bin Laden was on the decline, and in any ways continues to be so.

Bin Laden's version of jihadism has always been a very minor one within the select jihadi community--I separate usually jihadi from Islamist. Jihadis want to fight their way to imposition of their version of so-called sharia. Other Islamist groups use the ballot (Hamas, Hezbollah).

But bin Laden sought to unite all jihadis under his banner to fight the far enemies of US/Israel. Most jihadis simply want to fight locally---in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kashmir, Cheychna.

The AQ viral theology, if you like, has spread. But the actual tactics/jihadi style will be that of Zarqawi going forward. And to the degree that it does, the more those groups, I fear, can do damage in Europe and possibly North America.

The Iraq War, among other things, revived the hopes of jihadism in the ME. The Muslim Brotherhood (a Sunni Islamist group) denounced al-Qaeda attacks against the West. The War in Iraq, has both increased their recruiting drives (still probably in the 2% range) and ferretted such groups out into the open--as Bush said it would.

What Bush has ignorantly done with his Islamo-fascism rhetoric is unite disparate groups--linking Saddam to AQ, now AQ to Iran (whose Shia). You don't have to be a 4 star general to know that the idea is to divide and then conquer. Because the Sunni Arab world can not remain under autocrats forever and there is no chance for secular Arab regimes (of the sort the West would like to see) anywhere in the near future.

We need to learn how to start fragmenting these Sunni forces more and more--economic and social connection will start that process to which needs to be added smart political-diplomatic leveraging where necessary.


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