For a man who spent years living in caves, Bin Laden sure knows his
Sun Tzu and the basics of Jujitsu. Sun Tzu’s famous dictum was “know
yourself” and “know your enemy.” Jujitsu is based
upon using your enemy’s strength against him.
Bin Laden understood that the way to beat America was to turn its
power back upon itself. His early stated aim was to bankrupt America.
He knew his own weaknesses, and he profoundly understood America, and
how its pride, fear, and military machine could trigger irrational,
The genius of Bin Laden’s pinprick attacks costing a few hundred
thousand dollars has left America reeling with two unending multi-trillion
dollar wars it does not know how to get out of. He knew that his own
strength was mainly in his appeal to the minds of men. In particular,
he used the trampled dignity of Muslims under the heel of their own
dictators, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and
America’s military. Getting rid of the “far” enemy
was the way to take on the “near” ones.
Instigating America to destroy Iraq was a triumph of genius. He must
have been well-informed about the neoconservative
cabal in Washington
that was itching to start wars and to destroy Iraq. In Bin Laden’s
wildest dreams, he then imagined that he could get an enraged America
to destroy his enemies while at the same time isolating itself from
allies and becoming seriously weakened financially.
His prime Arab enemy, secular nationalist socialism, was embodied
by the Baathist rulers in Iraq. Once this enemy was destroyed, Muslim
resistance could be channeled to religious fundamentalism as the only
remaining force honest and profound enough to successfully challenge
Arab dictators and American soldiers. In that sense he was allied with
Israel and the neoconservatives, which, for different
reasons, feared Iraq as the most modern, secular nation among the Arabs
far more than it feared Muslim fundamentalists. Indeed, in Palestine, Israel built
up Islamist Hamas at first as a counterforce to the secular PLO. Successful
terrorists come from the well educated, not from fundamentalist fanatics.
Again, this was an intelligent Sun Tzu strategy
of harnessing his enemies’ strength
against other enemies.
Next was his hope that he might get America to destroy his Shiite
enemy, Iran. He almost succeeded in this, too. His prime aim, though,
was to get America bogged down in endless, resource-sapping wars on
the Asian land mass and to disrupt oil flows which benefitted his enemies.
Bin Laden understood how America’s religious fundamentalists,
who had inordinate power in Washington, could be encouraged to instigate
religious wars. He “knew” them precisely because he understood
his own Muslim fundamentalists, as indeed also the Israeli ones. All
could work together in his scheming mind, to wreck the global economy
that so benefited and funded American power. In 2002 at a party in
my home, I said to Peru’s brilliant economist Hernando de Soto,
that, of course, Bin Laden’s objective was to drive America out
of the Middle East. He replied to me, “Not just that, out of
the whole Third World!”
The financial crash in America came about, in the following ways,
because of the wars.
First, financing the wars with debt was the final straw that broke
the camel’s back. No one knew how much debt would break America,
but doubling the national debt in 8 years from $5 trillion to over
$10 trillion and commitments for trillions more finally did it. Government
at war seeks national support and billions of new funding. The concomitant
waste makes it far more difficult to deny billions for welfare, and
that is why America is called a warfare-welfare state. Welfare began
in Germany in the 19th century when Bismarck sought popular support
for his military ventures. It was the tradeoff.
Second, the destruction of Iraq, and Bush’s constant threats
to start bombing Iran that then could have closed down the Straits
of Hormuz, brought about sky-high oil prices, which then busted world
prosperity. Still, Bin Laden might not have imagined that hedge funds
would feed the speculation and that Bush would not release oil from
the petroleum reserve, which could have broken the price, because he
wanted to keep it in reserve for war against Iran. The subsequent collapse
of oil prices dried up a major source of foreign buyers for U.S. government
bonds that financed America’s reckless debts.
Third, all of Washington’s attention was absorbed by the wars,
leaving little time or energy for dull domestic issues, such as debating
reforms to the financial markets. Anyone who questioned wars’ costs
was dismissed as unpatriotic. Lies are part of waging war, and losing
discredits and exposes the lies of the leaders. It was a short step
from discredited American leaders to discredited American financial
Fourth was the toxic alliance of neoconservatives and religious fundamentalists.
The neocons were academic Washington policy wonks dreaming of ruling
the world; the “fundies” provided electoral support, while
viewing America as doing God’s work among the foreign heathen.
Their extremists indeed wanted chaos in the Middle East to “hurry
up” God’s plans for Armageddon. Instead, they served Bin
Fifth, war spending deficits were in effect a massive Keynesian pump-priming
operation, bound in the end to leave an economic hangover. Wars make
the economy boom with seeming prosperity, but in fact they cause an
incredible waste of resources. $200-plus million for each new fighter
plane; $1,000 a day for mercenaries, raising soldiers’ pay and
benefits; massive corruption and incompetence in the military occupation
— even Bin Laden could not have imagined how costly fighting wars
has become for America.
All of this was indeed foreseen, as the war had many critics, but
they could not break through in the major media against the Washington
establishment and the powers and lies
of the Bush administration.
Foreign Policy In Focus editor John Feffer forecast
consequences precisely in 2002 —
“The successful realization of bin Laden's secret strategy will
happen not with a bang but with a whimper. Having failed to use the
unipolar moment for the world's advantage, the United States runs the
risk of following the examples of Russia and England and Turkey, all
faded empires whose ambitions overreached themselves. In the worst
case scenario, the U.S. will become the sick man of North America,
a victim of military hypertrophy, extremes of wealth and poverty, decay
of civil infrastructure, and loss of competitive economic advantage.”
At least, though, Americans are told that Washington “succeeded” in
preventing any more attacks on the homeland. Maybe, but the more likely
reason was explained in a published letter to the editor of Foreign
Policy magazine by researcher Laura Garces—
“Why no attacks in America? — no reason now to expose himself
(Bin Laden) and expend resources when he already accomplished exactly
what he wanted: billions of U.S. dollars spent launching wars, total
neglect of American infrastructure…. Decay and bankruptcy are
what he sought, and fear is what he wanted to instill. Can anyone doubt
that he succeeded?”
Copyright by Jon Basil Utley, the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, and www.antiwar.com.
Jon Utley is associate publisher of The American
was formerly a foreign correspondent in South America for Knight Ridder
newspapers and has written for the Harvard Business
Review. For 17
years, he was a commentator on third-world economic issues for the
Voice of America. He is a long time conservative and libertarian
See a complete biographical sketch.
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