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Well, Saddam's Dead!
As I used to live in New York, just a few blocks from the World Trade Center, Osama's been on my mind. Turns out it his 50th birthday was maybe on Saturday. Ahmed Rashid writes in The Telegraph/UK:

LAHORE, Pakistan — Osama bin Laden could not have imagined as he fled the battlefield in Tora Bora in 2001 that he would have lived to see his 50th birthday.

But he has done that and more — restructuring Al Qaeda despite its losses, creating new bases in Africa and Iraq, expanding into Europe, drawing in thousands of new recruits, reviving the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, and turning Pakistan into Terrorism Central.

Jonathan Evans, the new director-general of Britain's MI5 and an expert on Al Qaeda, will have a tough time tracking him down.

Last month, American intelligence officials disclosed that Mr. bin Laden had wanted to die fighting in Tora Bora but that they forced him to flee into Pakistan's mountainous tribal areas.

From here, he and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, have reshaped Al Qaeda. Although Mr. bin Laden takes part in strategic decision making, day-to-day running of the movement is in the hands of Mr. Zawahri, the Egyptian doctor who has placed fellow countrymen in many of the key leadership positions.

...What unites and inspires the militants remains the global jihad ideology of the original Al Qaeda. Rather than talk about day-to-day events as Mr. Zawahri does, Mr. bin Laden expounds on global jihad — uniting the Muslim world under one leader, spreading Islam, and taking on the West.

Now, I'm no military strategist, but wouldn't it kind of made a lot of sense to send the full weight of our military to Afghanistan, rather than going after Saddam? They wouldn't have even needed to make up stories about WMDs!

Posted by aalkon at March 11, 2007 9:13 AM

Comments

Frogwash.

> restructuring Al Qaeda
> despite its losses,

Despite of the losses or by necessity from them? That's like saying that with the change in popular tastes and the death of Maurice, the BeeGees have had to "restructure" their touring schedule, or that Enron has had to pursue new investment strategies.

No Amy, AQ has not been vanquished to Hell with a puff of dust after a decisive, crisp slap to the cheek in the Town Square at high noon. But it was never a high noon, out-in-the-open sort of organization anyway, was it? It's not a nation-state like France, readily invaded and subjugated. But it's an international pariah, and those enthusiastic enough to seek it out to support it financially risk grievous censure and worse. Surviving operations, to the extent that they derive from the same threat as in 2001, are as furtive as can be.

> creating new bases
> in Africa and Iraq

"Bases"? Where? Do they have uniformed guards at in pillboxes at the gate who'll check your paperwork as you deliver Post-Its, White-Out, and other office supplies from an 18-wheeler to the loading docks of these "bases"? They've scattered like rodents... QUIET rodents. Who's surprised, and what did you have in mind?

> expanding into Europe,

Again, please please please tell us where.

> drawing in thousands of
> new recruits

Har. Let's say I wanted to join up. Where would I go? There are always going to be people who think they can join such a group and strike out at the Man, but don't pretend they're kinda righteous, or that we might not have had to deal with them, if only Bush hadn't ________.

> reviving the Taliban
> movement in Afghanistan

A continuing function of that nation's poverty and illiteracy. It's not like they have any righteous hold on the Afghan imagination. You often say 'Generally, we should have devoted all our resources to Afghanistan.' How *exactly* have we failed there? What could have gone better? Perhaps we could have thrown (even more) money at them and built a sewer system in Kabul or a network of birth-control clinics or the all-time mother string of day camps... They'd still be poor as shit, and in Iraq Saddam's sons would still be rampaging. (Unless you'd have wanted us to expand the No-Fly zones.)

> and turning Pakistan
> into Terrorism Central.

Again againagainagain, was it ever going to go another direction? What did you have in mind for the Paks?

To mock the death of Saddam is to imply that history in these regions is NOT made by personalities. The problem is not that these little brown people represent a whole different kind of humanity for which we have to make space and to which we need to give respect; I think this is a problem that can be solved, and bad people are going to have to die along the way. It was like that with slavery, too. It would be neat if we knew exactly which ones on sight, but that's not how it works.

History doesn't snap to attention just because we ask it to. Has anyone noticed a tremendous change in the flow of events since Rumsfeld resigned? The termination of Rumsfeld was like the death of Diana. In the hour of transition, the Voodoo Believers told is this was a person of tremendous importance...

Some of us were like, whatever.

Posted by: Crid at March 11, 2007 5:43 AM

Amy - Let's have a little comparison here.

Somewhere in California, I have hidden a first-printing Spider-Man #1. That nobody has either seen, or will admit to seeing.

Oh, and it's sentient and mobile.

Find it.

I don't care how many people you send in, you won't. Until you get lucky.

How long did it take te FBI to find the Unabomber? That's right - they didn't. They found him when his brother turned him in after he wrote that fucking manifesto.

I still maintain that Bin Laden died sometime in 2003. How else to explain that we've not seen a new video of him since then?

Posted by: brian at March 11, 2007 6:15 AM

Brian,

There is a major fallacy in your argument. First of all, a rare comic book hidden by one person would be difficult to find. Similar to one bomber, who was discovered by his estranged brother through recognizing his writing style was similar to the Unabomber's manifesto.

Al Qaeda is not a one man operation, but many. Yes, they are marginalized, isolated and able to keep organizational discipline within the key ranks. These qualities are also easy to exploit, because time and finances are not on the side of religious inspired terrorist groups. What keeps them going is their religious fervor. Much different than the political liberation terrorism of the latter half of the 20th Century.

Prior to September 11, 2001 it would have been easy to infiltrate A.Q. Remember Johnny Walker Lindh? A confused teenager from Marin County, CA met Bin Laden in Afghanistan. Yes, I will admit post 9/11 it will be a little more difficult, but not impossible.

Posted by: Joe at March 11, 2007 7:54 AM

Posted by: Jim Treacher at March 11, 2007 8:58 AM

Joe - Regardless of what Al-qaeda is, all I hear from the anti-war crowd is "why haven't you caught Bin Laden yet?"

Given their obsession with catching one man, I think my comparison is more than apt.

As far as infiltrating AQ, we can't because we passed laws against using the kinds of people likely to be able to pull it off. We aren't allowed to use persons of questionable morals to infiltrate foreign organizations any more. And only those of questionable morals are gonna be able to infiltrate such an organization.

And so long as the "religious fervor" finds state sponsorship throughout the middle east, it won't be going away any time soon. Which was kinda the point of Iraq - a proxy war against the nations that fund Islamism.

Perhaps those who oppose our invasion of Iraq would have preferred the direct approach?

Posted by: brian at March 11, 2007 9:45 AM

a proxy war against the nations that fund Islamism.

Send this to George Bush; even he didn't think of this ex post facto "reason" for the corporate oil war.

Posted by: Machida at March 11, 2007 3:19 PM

> even he didn't think

Well, he might not have sold it that way and we might wish he had, but he'd been watching the oil business pretty closely for five decades, and it probably crossed his mind. Meanwhile, you shouldn't pussyfoot: Define your terms, specifically "corporate" and "oil war". (I'd wager you're not old or degreed enough to toss Latin so casually.)

Posted by: Crid at March 11, 2007 4:04 PM

(I'd wager you're not old or degreed enough to toss Latin so casually.)

The only response I make to ad hominem argumentation is to identify it as such.

Posted by: Machida at March 11, 2007 4:52 PM

Machida -

There's something your argumentum ad absurdum is lacking - it's called evidence.

Has it occurred to you that perhaps letting our enemies know precisely what our reasons for invading Iraq were would be, I don't know, a Bad Thing?

There were plenty of reasons to invade Iraq, but the only one that makes sense from a long-term strategic perspective is to use Iraq as both a political and a military launching point for a complete remaking of the Middle East.

Which is the only way short of nuclear genocide to stop the threat of political Islamism.

Posted by: brian at March 11, 2007 5:10 PM

Brian

I think you are intermingling issues of policy, strategy, operations, and tactics.

The best source of identifying and applying each is the original source by Karl von Clausewitz, On War. However, briefly, the concepts are ordinal, and Clausewitz states that while a failure of operations or tactics may doom the entire chain, a failure of policy or strategy will doom the entire chain.

The Iraq war was doomed from the beginning because of failed policy. A truthful presentation to the American people could have permitted the policy debate that responsible governing entails.
And no, secret policies do not help the enemy, they hurt us. Operations and tactics may need to be kept secret, and sometimes even strategy, but never policy.

Posted by: Machida at March 11, 2007 5:41 PM

> The best source of identifying

Keegan said Clausewitz was full of shit. Well, actually, the word he used was "wrong", but we try to keep things sparky here to maintain the interest of blog readers.

http://tinyurl.com/yukdyn

> The Iraq war was doomed from
> the beginning

Depends on what you expected out of it. We've certainly got less than we were promised, but that's how war usually works. We may yet be pleased that we got in there and threw the punch. There've been some good consequences, and we've begun to answer a challenge that was in our future no matter what.

> A truthful presentation to
> the American people

I love, LOVE, when people make this argument. The condescension stands there naked and tumescent for all to see: "The Americans people were hoodwinked! They were stupid to trust this President! They need my paternal guidance on these matters (even if I and my favored public servants were inexplicably quiet at the time)!" Despite Bush's incompetence, Republicans may well keep the White House next year, and this kind of smugness will be why.

You're actually right about policy being public, but I don't remember anybody being squelched in January of 2003... And those who whine as if they were (Hello, Mr. Wilson!) aren't the types I'd have been inclined to trust anyway.

Posted by: Crid at March 11, 2007 6:57 PM

Machida -

If we had established regime change in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria as our official policy (as we had with the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998), what do you think would have happened to oil?

Sometimes, it is best to not play your hand, lest your enemy know what you hold and change the rules of the game out from under you.

Do not make the rational actor fallacy. Our definition of rational does not contain the mindset of the Islamist middle east.

Posted by: brian at March 12, 2007 2:28 PM

Thanks to Crid and Brian, the situation is well in hand here. I have only one question. What about the other twenty reasons for going to war that were incorporated into the Congressional Declaration of War?

Posted by: Casca at March 12, 2007 10:12 PM

Casca - didn't you know that they were manipulated by Bush and Rove? All the way back in 1998, President Bush was lying to Congress about Iraq's weapons programs.

What do you mean Bush wasn't president in 1998? Well, that doesn't matter, since we all know that Bush Lied, People Died. It just doesn't sound the same when you blame Saddam for it.

Posted by: brian at March 13, 2007 4:16 AM

Actually, Clinton lied, people died.

Posted by: Casca at March 13, 2007 6:19 AM

Monica died?

Posted by: -x- at March 13, 2007 6:58 AM

Oh yeah, the 3000 dead in the towers were Bush's fault, since he was sworn in less than nine months before. Ah the '90s, what a glorious head-in-the-sand time it was.

Posted by: Casca at March 13, 2007 10:31 AM

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