Tag Archives: Qaeda

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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The Writing on the Wall for Obama’s ‘Af-Pak’ Vietnam


There was something almost painful about watching President Barack Obama last week reprising a track from his predecessor’s Greatest Hits when he hosted the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Just like Bush, Obama invited us to suspend well-grounded disbelief and imagine that Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari have the intent, much less the capability, to wage a successful war against the Taliban. Then again, there had been something painful even earlier about watching Obama proclaim Afghanistan as “the right war” and expanding the U.S. footprint there, reprising the Soviet experience of maintaining an islet of modernity in the capital while the countryside burns.

It requires a spectacular leap of faith in a kind of superheroic American exceptionalism to imagine that the invasion of Afghanistan that occurred in November 2001 will end any differently from any previous invasion of that country. And it takes an elaborate exercise in self-delusion to avoid recognizing that the Taliban crisis in Pakistan is an effect of the war in Afghanistan, rather than a cause — and that Pakistan’s turmoil is unlikely to end before the U.S. winds down its campaign next door. Continue reading

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Rambo III and the Mumbai Massacre

This from my latest in the National:

If Condoleezza Rice had been looking for some in-flight movies pertinent to her mission in South Asia over the past few days, she ought to have considered Rambo III. Or Pinocchio. Or Frankenstein. Aladdin, even.

All four could help explain the background to the Mumbai massacre that has brought India and Pakistan to the brink of confrontation. Pinocchio and Frankenstein, after all, are cautionary tales about how those who fabricate creatures to do their bidding are often forced to reckon with the often vindictive impulses of their creations. Aladdin unleashes a genie who has his own agenda. And Rambo III, in which Sylvester Stallone’s action-hero joins up with the Afghan mujahideen to fight the Soviets (just like a certain Mr Bin Laden) should serve as a timely reminder that support for holy warriors waging jihad had been an article of faith in Ronald Reagan’s Washington.

Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, had served as the conduit for Washington to use the Afghan mujahideen and the Arab volunteers who joined them, to wage a proxy war on the Soviets. And from the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 to the 9/11 attacks, the monster created by assembling an Islamist International for combat and training in Afghanistan turned on its erstwhile patron to deadly effect.

But after the US walked away when the Soviets limped out of Afghanistan, the Pakistanis used the proxy war model to pursue their own regional agenda.
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All the Hysteria That’s Fit to Print, Take II

Now the New York Times wants you to take seriously the idea that the prime issue for the American voter is the danger of al-Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons. Oh, grow up! 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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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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