|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
America's war on terrorism is widely perceived throughout Pakistan as a war on Islam. A muscular Islamic fundamentalism is gaining ground there and threatening the stability of the government, upon which we depend to guarantee the security of those nuclear weapons. Since a robust U.S. military presence in Pakistan is untenable for the government in Islamabad, however, tens of thousands of U.S. troops are likely to remain parked next door in Afghanistan for some time.
Perhaps bin Laden foresaw some of these outcomes when he launched his 9/11 operation from Taliban-secured bases in Afghanistan. Since nations targeted by terrorist groups routinely abandon some of their cherished principles, he may also have foreseen something along the lines of Abu Ghraib, "black sites," extraordinary rendition and even the prison at Guantanamo Bay. But in these and many other developments, bin Laden needed our unwitting collaboration, and we have provided it -- more than $1 trillion spent on two wars, more than 5,000 of our troops killed, tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans dead. Our military is so overstretched that defense contracting -- for everything from interrogation to security to the gathering of intelligence -- is one of our few growth industries.
We have raced to Afghanistan and Iraq, and more recently to Yemen and Somalia; we have created a swollen national security apparatus; and we are so absorbed in our own fury and so oblivious to our enemy's intentions that we inflate the building of an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan into a national debate and watch, helpless, while a minister in Florida outrages even our friends in the Islamic world by threatening to burn copies of the Koran.
If bin Laden did not foresee all this, then he quickly came to understand it. In a 2004 video message, he boasted about leading America on the path to self-destruction. "All we have to do is send two mujaheddin . . . to raise a small piece of cloth on which is written 'al-Qaeda' in order to make the generals race there, to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses."
Through the initial spending of a few hundred thousand dollars, training and then sacrificing 19 of his foot soldiers, bin Laden has watched his relatively tiny and all but anonymous organization of a few hundred zealots turn into the most recognized international franchise since McDonald's. Could any enemy of the United States have achieved more with less?