Tag Archives: Bin Laden

Why Bin Laden Lost

The 9/11 attacks were a spectacular terrorist version of Che Guevara’s “foco” theory — a small band of armed men launches attacks on an enemy loathed by the population on whose behalf it claims to act, assuming that this will rally the masses to armed revolt. And like Che’s Bolivia foco, it was a spectacular failure.

Eight years on, tensions are escalating between the U.S. and its allies on the one hand, a range of Muslim adversaries on the other. But al-Qaeda is irrelevant, its attempt to supplant the likes of Hamas, Hizballah, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood through made-for-TV spectacular mass casualty terror attacks lying in tatters. It should have been obvious from the get-go that this would fail: The surest sign was the fact that from Cairo to Islamabad and Jakarta, Muslims were so repulsed by the wanton killing of innocents that they preferred to see it as the dirty work of the CIA or Mossad, rather than of “glorious mujahedeen” as Bin Laden would have it.
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Call Me Ishmael…

Strategic threat or law enforcement problem?

The suggestion that al Qa’eda poses more danger to the well-being of ordinary Americans than a tanking economy that threatens the jobs and homes of millions seems preposterous to any sober observer: al Qa’eda is a small conspiratorial organisation that once, seven years ago, managed to pull off a spectacular attack on US soil, and has over the same period pulled off a few more such grisly stunts in London, Madrid, Casablanca and Bali. It controls no territory and is incapable of disrupting the defences of even the weakest states on the planet, much less the most powerful. To suggest it poses a greater risk than the most profound slump in three generations made a good Halloween story, nothing more.

But if McCain was simply trying to scare people into voting for him, he was inadvertently laying bare the fallacy at the heart of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror”, which made the organising principle of US foreign policy a campaign against a handful of extreme jihadists.

McCain regularly repeats the preposterous mantra that the struggle against Islamist radicalism is the “transcendent challenge of the 21st century,” but make no mistake, Barack Obama falls victim to the same flawed logic when he proclaims Afghanistan “the right war” and promises to get out of Iraq in order to free up more troops to send to “stamp out the Taliban”, as he put it one of the presidential debates. Continue reading

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Al-Qaeda is Like Trotsky: Irrelevant

All this talk in the U.S. media about al-Qaeda being defeated is to be welcomed, since it reflects a realization, belated as it may be, that Bin Laden’s movement is not particularly strategically significant. This has always been the case, of course, even when the U.S. was going to war on the basis of the Qaeda bogey — Saddam Hussein, remember, became an intolerable menace only after 9/11, because of his “al-Qaeda connection” spuriously suggested by the Bush Administration.

Al-Qaeda is irrelevant, and yet U.S. hegemony in the Middle East is facing an unprecedented challenge from Islamist-nationalist groups. To understand the link between al-Qaeda’s weakness and the greatly expanded strength of groups such as Hamas, Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood and, of course, Iran, over the past seven years, it’s worth turning to the 20th century precedent: Leon Trotsky and his followers vs. the larger, nationally-focused parties of the left in the mid 20th century.

Trotsky rejected pragmatism and compromise by nationally-based leftist movements and insisted, instead, that they subordinate their specific national interests and objectives to the fantasy of “world revolution.” And as a result, long before his murder by Stalin, he found himself holed up in Mexico City, manically firing off communiques denouncing all compromise, and being largely ignored by the more substantial parties of the left world-wide. He had become an irrelevant chatterbox, caught up in a frenzy of his own rhetoric while world events simply passed him by. The same can be said of Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri — it is not al-Qaeda, but the likes of Iran, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Muslim Brotherhood that represent the future of the nationalist-Islamist challenge to Western power in the Middle East. And that’s a profoundly important distinction: There’s no point in negotiating with al-Qaeda, whose very prominence is more a function of the U.S. reaction to its provocations than of its own organizational efforts, which represents very little on the ground, and eschews politics. But Western powers are beginning to see that there’s plenty to be gained from talking to Iran, Hamas, Hizballah etc. Continue reading

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Bush, Like Bin Laden, on the Sidelines

By measure of each man’s negligible influence over events in the Middle East — despite florid denunciations of all compromise and accomodation with those each brands as evil — President George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden appear to have more in common than either would care to admit. In Lebanon, Israel, Syria and the Palestinian territories, protagonists in key conflicts are ignoring both Bush and Bin Laden to forge a new pragmatic politics of coexistence. Continue reading

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The Bin Laden-Bush Consensus

When it comes to Iran, the President and the Qaeda leader appear to be on the same page Continue reading

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