Friday, April 30, 2010

Asking for It

I remain amazed that some, like Michael Scheuer, can believe that we fell for Osama bin Laden's trap by destroying the Taliban regime after 9/11:

"I would like to believe that bin Laden was shocked and dismayed by what we did after 9/11, but I come hard up against an awful lot of evidence that that's exactly what he wanted."

I have no doubt he wanted us to attack him. But I also have no doubt that he--like Saddam in 2003--expected us to respond with ineffective military force. Bin Laden may have thought that we'd throw enough bombs to enrage Moslems yet not enough to do anything of significance to harm al Qaeda.

I find it especially hard to believe that people can still think we fell into their deep trap after al Qaeda had their butts kicked in Afghanistan and Iraq, and have seen their popularity and funding drop dramatically.

And there is some testimony--if you believe a former terrorist--that bin Laden was taken surprise by our aggressive and effective military response:

"I'm 100 percent sure they had no clue about what was going to happen," says Noman Benotman, who was head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in the summer of 2000.

"What happened after the 11th of September was beyond their imagination, " says Benotman, who adds that al-Qaida thought the U.S. was a "paper tiger." . . .

Zawahiri, according to Benotman, expected only a missile attack.

And the assumption that we fell into their trap requires us to accept that bin Laden expected to drop the World Trade Center and thus inflict so much damage that we had to respond in force. But that assumption is not safe to make:

Benotman's assessment is backed up by a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, who was active in the fight against al-Qaida.

The officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says "several captured terrorists have said publicly that al-Qaida never expected the towers to fall. Their goal was to frighten people and impact the U.S. economy, so they really didn't plan for the massive response the U.S. launched."

Just because an enemy expects us and wants us to do something doesn't mean the enemy is right to want that response. We did not fall into Osama's deep trap--we kicked his ass.  He may have expected us to fail in a half-hearted counter-attack, but that isn't what he got. And that was a surprise to Osama.

Or do you really believe that America developed a reputation for resolute action during the 1990s, and that a resolute and decisive response was exactly what Osama bin Laden wanted and needed?