9/11

9/11….I’m not much for memorials, but even I don’t think that an amateur discussion of typewriter fonts of the early 70s is a great choice of blogging topics today. Instead, here is Juan Cole’s reminder of what Osama bin Laden was trying to accomplish with his attacks three years ago:

Bin Laden hoped the US would timidly withdraw from the Middle East. But he appears to have been aware that an aggressive US response to 9/11 was entirely possible. In that case, he had a Plan B: al-Qaeda hoped to draw the US into a debilitating guerrilla war in Afghanistan and do to the US military what they had earlier done to the Soviets. Al-Zawahiri’s recent message shows that he still has faith in that strategy.

The US cleverly outfoxed al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, using air power and local Afghan allies (the Northern Alliance) to destroy the Taliban without many American boots on the ground.

Ironically, however, the Bush administration then went on to invade Iraq for no good reason, where Americans faced the kind of wearing guerrilla war they had avoided in Afghanistan.

….It remains to be seen whether the US will be forced out of Iraq the way it was forced out of Iran in 1979. If so, as al-Zawahiri says, that will be a huge victory. A recent opinion poll did find that over 80 percent of Iraqis want an Islamic state. If Iraq goes Islamist, that will be the biggest victory the movement has had since the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. An Islamist Iraq might well be able ultimately to form a joint state with Syria, starting the process of the formation of the Islamic superstate of which Bin Laden dreams.

You should read the whole thing, but the bottom line is pretty simple: if we stay in Iraq and fight a long, grinding, unwinnable guerrilla war against Islamic militants, bin Laden is delighted. If we give up and leave Iraq, bin Laden is delighted.

It didn’t have to be this way, of course. We could have spent our military energies on smashing al-Qaeda and our diplomatic energies on gaining allies in the Middle East ? demonstrating that Osama bin Laden’s murderous vision was neither the best nor the only path for the Muslim world. Instead, thanks to George Bush’s obsession with Iraq, America is the Great Satan, bin Laden is the most popular public figure in every Arab country in the world, al-Qaeda is bigger and more broad-based than ever, a thousand American soldiers are dead, and Iran and North Korea pursue their nuclear plans with impunity.

We are where we are because of George Bush. Never forget that.